It's time for you to begin estimating your forage supply/demand for the livestock you wish to support this year on warm-season forages. Most producers tend to run a fixed number of livestock yearlong. They will compensate for a dry season by feeding additional hay during the winter and a wet season by baling more hay during the summer. However, other strategies can be incorporated into our overall program to take advantage of one of the most valuable commodities in this region grass.
As most of you know, the quality of the warm-season grass we grow is highest in the spring (April-June); therefore, this is the time of the year when we have the greatest potential to grow pounds of beef. During this time, the nutritional needs of most classes of livestock can be met without supplementation (except minerals). Stockers should be expected to gain 1.5+ lbs/hd/day and lactating cows should be producing adequate milk, gaining weight, and rebreeding if they calved in the spring.
Something you might want to consider as an alternative strategy of using this quality forage is retaining the lighter end of your winter pasture calves on summer grass. If you only have nativegrass pastures and are currently stocked at its maximum potential with cows, this may not be possible. However, if you do have extra nativegrass pasture, you could come off the winter pasture in mid-May and go straight to nativegrass.
The quality of the nativegrass this time of the year is comparable to winter pasture. In fact, it's probably better quality than maturing winter pasture. If your nativegrass pasture is in good condition, you should be able to run one calf (600-650 lbs) on 1-2 acres for 45 days (May 15-June 30) and expect them to gain 1.5+ lbs/hd/day.
If you have introduced grass such as Bermudagrass or Plains bluestem, you might consider increasing the amount of nitrogen(N) you apply this spring. For example, you should be able to grow an additional 1,500 lbs of available forage per acre by applying 50 lbs of actual N per acre from May 1 to May 15. This should give you enough forage to run 1-1.5 calves per acre weighing 600-650 lbs for 45 days (May 15-June 30) and you should expect them to gain between 1.5-2.0 lbs/hd/day. Simply put, for $15.00 per acre you should get approximately 100 lbs of gain per acre.
Whether or not you choose to deviate from past management strategies is totally up to you. However, we know there is at least one constant in our business That constant is change. Market price and weather are just two examples of our "ever-changing" environment. We must always be on the lookout for alternatives which might give us a greater return on our investments.