Its not too late to plant supplemental forage
Posted: 08/10/2012 at 1:15 am
Many producers want to grow more forage this fall and early next spring because of reduced yields from dry weather this year. Supplemental forage can be produced yet this year by planting small grains or annual ryegrass on land coming out of wheat or corn silage.
Before making any plans to plant supplemental forages, be sure to check the plant-back restriction interval for herbicides used in the previous crop. Corn herbicides, especially atrazine products, have a long rotation restriction interval for many of the forage options listed below.
The best options are to plant spring oat, spring triticale or annual ryegrass. When planted the first two weeks of August and with adequate rainfall, oat and spring triticale can produce from 4,000 to 5,000 pounds an acre of dry matter by mid-October. They will reach the boot stage of growth in October, which provides the best compromise of yield and forage quality. If harvest is delayed until November, the early August planted oat and spring triticale will be in heading stage and will yield 6,000 pounds of dry matter per acre or more. Early August planted oats or spring triticale forage will have crude protein content of 12 to 15 percent.
Turnips or other brassicas planted in the first weeks of August can provide 3 to 4.5 tons of dry matter per acre (tops plus tubers) for grazing in late autumn and early winter. These crops are not acceptable for hay or silage. They require well-drained soils with pH between 5.3 and 6.8. Plant turnips at 2 to 3 pounds per acre. Turnips do not tolerate competition, so weed control before establishment is important. Turnips or other brassica crops like rape can be planted with oats, rye or annual ryegrass. Mixing brassicas with grasses would have the benefit of providing more fiber to the livestock, as brassicas are extremely low in fiber.
Spring oat, spring triticale and annual ryegrass can also be planted from late August to mid-September, immediately after an early corn silage harvest. These later planting dates will produce lower yields (1,500 to 3,000 pounds dry matter per acre) and harvest will be delayed into months with poor drying conditions (November to early December), but would be an excellent option for grazing or green chopping. Forage quality will be very high with these later plantings, with crude protein in the range from 20 to 32 percent. If an early spring forage harvest is desirable next year, winter triticale and winter rye should be included in mixture with the spring oat and spring triticale planted in late August and early September.
Wheat, winter triticale and winter rye can be planted to produce good yields of high-quality forage next spring. Rye will grow and mature quickly in the spring and becomes “like straw” in a short period once it turns reproductive in the spring. Wheat and winter triticale will be easier to manage next spring because they mature later and more slowly than rye. Delay wheat planting until after the Hessian fly-free date, which is Sept. 22 in northern Indiana. Forage quality can be excellent for these species if harvested in the vegetative to boot stage of growth in the spring, producing from 2 to 4 tons per acre of dry matter depending on stage of harvest.
Jeff Burbrink is an Extension educator in agriculture and natural resources. Write to him at 17746 E. C.R. 34, Goshen, IN 46528; call 533-0554; or fax 533-0254.