Feed Prices Shift Focus to Pasture Use

Following the prolonged drought in the mid-west and the sharply escalating costs of corn-based feeds, livestock and horse producers on the east coast are being encouraged to rely more heavily on existing pastures and available forages for their animals.

“If the price of feed corn in 2013 continues to go up as it has this summer, livestock and horse producers may be hard-pressed to feed their animals and still turn a profit,” said Jim Moore, vice president of the Southern States Feed Division.

Forage is the most important element to any diet, whether livestock or horses.  A high quality pasture can help producers control feed costs.

“Pastures that saw heavy grazing this past year may require additional attention, in terms of seed and fertilizer this fall and over the winter, to be able to sustain increased demand next spring,” advised David Jessee, an agronomist for Southern States.  “The east coast can’t produce all of the forage that will be needed, and we can’t rely on hay from the mid-west to supplement it,” he said.

Fall is the best time to plant, fertilize and lime a cool-season pasture. The proper timing for establishment is very important in developing the proper root system for providing the best forage for your livestock and horses over the growing season.  It is also advisable to conduct a soil test on pastures as a first step in determining a viable pasture management plan.

If quality grasses and hays are scarce, producers are also encouraged to supplement livestock or horses’ diets with forage replacers such as silage for cattle and chopped forages or pelleted hay stretchers for horses.

For additional information on pasture management and planning, contact your local county extension service.



  1. I think more and more producers should consider switching a pasture to native warm-season grasses. With the constant threat of drought and the record-setting heat, the summer slump fescue-based systems experience could be more easily mitigated if people had more of these grasses. They have protein content on par with orchardgrass, provide wildlife habitat that brings in supplemental income from hunters, and can produce in the awkward months when fescue is nothing but an endophytic liability.

    Here’s what the University of Tennessee says on the topic: