Extending the grazing season is good for herd health and is cost effective.

But it is difficult to do in the winter when very few grasses are growing. University of Kentucky College of Agriculture researchers are studying the effects of cattle grazing wheat that will later be harvested for grain.

“In the cattle business, we say any day grazing is a good day, and beef cattle wintering costs are so high,” said Roy Burris, UK Extension beef specialist. “If cattle can graze the wheat, it will be good for the cattle and good for producers’ pocketbooks.”

Burris has seen producers of both commodities in other states graze cattle on wheat in the winter and believes Kentucky producers can do it. Kentucky producers have used wheat in their grazing systems as a feed source in the fall and early spring. He asked UK soil Extension specialist Edwin Ritchey to help him conduct the study.

Ritchey and Burris conducted a preliminary trial during the winter of 2011-2012. Cattle grazed on 19 acres of wheat from Dec. 12 to March 16 at the UK Research and Education Center.

The researchers also had a two-acre, tall fescue pasture adjacent to the wheat field so the cattle could be moved during the weekends and during wet weather to prevent compaction and yield damage. They removed cattle from the field in February to help maintain grain yields.

The results from the preliminary study were promising. The average daily gain of the 24 young beef heifers was nearly 1 pound per day. Using the current cattle prices, the researchers estimated they made $140 per acre.