Fall Planting Date Depends On Grazing Needs


   It’s been an odd year. Lots of rain produced lots of forage, but the hay making season was terrible for most of the year. Much of the abundant forage grew past the optimum maturity stage before it could be harvested. Importing good quality hay is an option, but good quality forage can be grown and grazed this fall and winter to offset hay quality deficiencies. Winter annual pastures make great additions to a forage program. Winter annuals include cereal rye, wheat, triticale, oats, rye-grass and even forage brassica. Timing of planting is important to produce fall grazing. Here are some guidelines for planting winter annuals based on the anticipated period grazing need.
   Initial Grazing Period: October/November
   • Plant forage brassica in late August to the first week of September. Forage brassica include forage turnip, rape and several hybrids. Seeding rate is 5 pounds per acre or 3 pounds per acre when planted in mixtures with wheat or ryegrass. Light to moderate disking or herbicide suppression of the sod is needed for successful establishment of forage brassica. The seed is small, so don’t plant too deep. Brassica can be planted after a summer silage crop (check herbicides used on silage crop for planting restrictions). Apply 50 to 60 pounds N per acre along with P and K by soil test. U of A tests show that forage brassica can produce 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of dry matter by late October and up to 5,000 pounds dry matter by December.
   • Plant brassica/ryegrass mixtures. Forage brassica will produce excellent grazing in fall, and the ryegrass will produce excellent grazing in spring. Plant 2 to 3 pounds per acre brassica with 20 pounds per acre ryegrass. Apply 50 pounds N for the brassica at planting for fall grazing, and reapply 50pounds N in late February for the spring ryegrass.
   • Plant wheat or cereal rye the first of September on a tilled seedbed or no-till on a herbicide-suppressed sod. Seeding rate is 100 to 120 pounds per acre. Early planting can produce adequate grazing by early November. Apply 50 to 60 pounds N per acre along with P and K by soil test.
   Initial Grazing Period: December
   • Plant forage brassica as described earlier. Grazing of brassica can be delayed until December, but these forages must still be planted early – no later than September 15. 
   • Plant wheat or cereal rye by early October. Use the same planting and fertilizer rate as described earlier. 
   • Plant spring oats in late August to early September. Spring oats can produce up to 3,000 pounds of forage per acre when planted in early fall. Winter kill is likely, but the point is that a high yield of good quality forage can be produced for grazing or chopping before other winter annual forages are ready. Planting rate is 100 to 120 pounds per acre. A common variety of spring oats is “Jerry.” Apply 50to 70 pounds N per acre with P and K by soil test. Initial Grazing Period: Late Spring to Winter
   • Plant wheat or cereal rye mixed with annual ryegrass in late October to early November. The small grain can provide late winter grazing and the ryegrass persists better into spring providing excellent forage through April into early May. Plant the small grain at 100 pounds per acre and ryegrass at 20 to 25 pounds per acre. N fertilizer can be delayed until February.
   • Plant ryegrass. Ryegrass planted alone produces much less fall and winter forage than small grains or brassica. But it is inexpensive, excellent quality spring forage. It is often planted with small grains or brassica to extend the spring grazing season. Planting rate is 20 to 25 pounds per acre. N fertilizer can be delayed until February. Nitrogen is required for good fall/winter grazing. Spring fertilizer is often delayed until March, but that can be a mistake. March weather, like this past spring of 2015, is often too wet to allow field access for fertilizing. If fields are dry in late winter, select fields where early forage is needed and apply N during February to boost early spring growth and provide insurance against delayed field access during a wet March. ∆
   DR. JOHN JENNINGS: Professor/Extension Forages, University of Arkansas

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