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Annual forages planted in late summer can be used as fall feed

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Dry conditions throughout the nation are challenging producers to consider options for growing additional forage to provide feed for their live- stock through fall and winter. 

The significant lack of precipitation has impacted forage production from perennial dryland hay fields as well as yields from winter and spring annual forages. 

“Dry conditions and forage shortages are prompting many producers to consider what other annual forages can be planted with what remains of the summer to grow additional feed,” state University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension Beef Educator Aaron Berger and UNL Extension Range and Forage Specialist Dr. Jerry Volesky. 

During an episode of UNL’s BeefWatch pod- cast, Berger and Volesky discuss options producers have for planting annual forages late in the summer to be used as fall feed for their livestock. 

Summer annuals 

To begin their conversation, Berger and Volesky explain summer annuals are a good option when planted through the end of July and into early August. 

In fact, Volesky notes some of his research, conducted at the West Central Research and Extension Center, has shown with adequate moisture and soil fertility, summer annuals planted in late July and early August can be quite productive, producing two to four tons of forage per acre. 

A few summer annuals the two Extension specialists recommend are foxtail millet, sor- ghum and Sudangrass. 

Spring annuals 

“Another option is spring annual forages such as oats, spring triticale and barley planted in late July through the middle of August, which can provide high-quality feed,” explain Berger and Volesky. “These can also be planted with turnips, forage rape or other species used in cover crop mixtures.” 

“This forage can be harvested, direct grazed or windrow grazed from October into the winter,” they add. 

Berger and Volesky explain spring annual forages can also be planted in a mix with winter annuals such as winter wheat, rye or triticale. 

“With this approach, the spring annual will provide the majority of the fall forage, while the winter annual will provide additional grazing the following spring,” they say. 

According to Berger and Volesky, spring annuals with adequate fertility, moisture and growing days can accumulate 1.5 to three tons of forage per acre when planted in late July to the middle of August. 

“The earlier the planting date the more total forage is likely to be produced,” they explain. “Spring annuals are somewhat cold tolerant and are able to withstand light frosts. Once the temperatures drop to the lower 20s and upper teens, the plants will begin to die and lose their green color.” 

Annuals following wheat 

For areas where wheat is grown under irrigation, Berger and Volesky note planting annual forages after wheat has been harvested can be an excellent way to grow additional forage. 

“This practice can also be applied on dryland wheat acres should summer rainfall become abundant and soil moisture adequate enough to support growing an additional crop,” they state. 

Utilizing oats 

While producers have several options when it comes to planting additional forage late in the summer, Berger and Volesky note oats are one of the best. 

“Research at the High Plains Ag Lab has shown late summer planted oats can maintain quality amazingly well through the winter,” they say. 

The two specialists note data from standing oats planted in late July and early August of 2012, harvested and analyzed in early March of 2013, showed oats at 13 percent crude protein with total digestible nutrient (TDN) values in the mid 60s. 

“Similarly, trials at the West Central Research and Extension Center found late October yields of three to four tons per acre with crude protein content ranging from 13 to 17 percent. TDN values were also in the mid 60s,” explain Berger and Volesky. “This is better quality than many types of hay often being fed at this time of year.” 

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to 

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