Wheat Pasture Offers Managed Cow Grazing

Assuming more fall rainfall comes to the Southern Plains, wheat pasture again will be a key source of protein and some energy for many area cow herds, said Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist, in the university’s Cow/Calf Corner.  But the management needs will go up.

If that rainfall occurs, wheat grazing usually will start in late November or early December.

Limited wheat grazing has proven to be the best and more efficient approach for utilizing this high-quality forage with mature beef cows, Selk said.  The protein requirements of a dry cow can be met by allowing her to graze on wheat pasture for one day and returning her to dry pasture grass or hay for two to three days.

A pattern of one day on wheat and one day off, should meet the protein needs of the same cow after calving, he said.  Producers must remember that adequate forage must be available in the dry grass pastures or in the form of hay to provide much of the energy needs of the cows in the “off” days.

The day on wheat pasture should be defined as that amount of time required for the cow to graze her fill of wheat forage (three to five hours) and not a full 24 hours.  This short time on wheat allows her to gather adequate amounts of protein to carry her over the ensuing days on dry grass or hay.

A three-to-five-hour grazing limit helps avoid the unnecessary loss of valuable forage due to trampling, bedding down and manure deposits.  Under normal fall weather conditions, enough wheat forage should be accumulated by early December to supply the protein needs of about one to 1.5 cows per acre throughout the winter months when limit grazing is practiced, Selk said.




Producers who decide to use continuous grazing programs, should watch for “grass tetany,” he said.  Grass tetany normally strikes when older cows are grazing small grain pastures in the early spring.  The danger tends to subside with hot weather.

A mineral-deficient condition, primarily calcium and to a lesser degree magnesium, is thought to be the major factor triggering the grass tetany and normally affects older cows that are nursing calves under two to three months of age, Selk said.  Dry cows are seldom affected.

When conditions for tetany are suspected, cows should be provided mineral mixes containing 12% to 15% magnesium and be consumed at three to four ounces a day, he said.  It is best for the supplements to be started a couple of months ahead of the period of tetany danger so proper intake can be established.

Because tetany also can occur when calcium is low, calcium supplementation should be included, Selk said.  Cows grazing lush small grain pastures should be fed mineral mixes containing calcium and magnesium.




Two lots from Texas sold at the Livestock Exchange video auction Wednesday at $108.25 and $108.50 per cwt.

Cash cattle traded lightly at $107 to $108 per cwt on a live basis, steady with last week.

Dressed-basis trade last week was at $172 per cwt, steady to up $2 from the previous week.

The USDA’s choice cutout Wednesday was down $0.46 per cwt at $197.41, while select was up $0.53 at $189.55.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $7.86 from $8.85 with 71 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Tuesday was $155.65 per cwt, down $0.11.  This compares with Wednesday’s Oct settlement of $152.10, down $0.32.