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When to Plant Summer Annual Forage Grasses

The next potential forage stressor is almost upon us and that stressor is summer. Long, hot days impact forage availability all through the grazing season.

While worst-case scenarios don’t always occur, it’s better to be prepared then to be caught off guard. Therefore, to protect perennial forages for long-term stand life, it is sometimes necessary to consider alternative forage options so that our permanent stands are able to rest and recover.

Summer annuals are a great choice when you need a short-term alternative to pastures because these annuals are able to provide quick forage They can be quickly established for high productivity in a short amount of time. Summer annual forage grasses also are extremely drought resistant and heat tolerant, allowing them to provide relatively high-quality forage when necessary.

While it isn’t a good idea to rely on summer annual forage grasses every year, it is nice to have them in your back pocket should the need arise. But how do you know when it is time to exercise this option?

Summer annual forage grasses can be considered in certain situations. For example, when forage supplies are low, and an emergency forage crop is needed. They also can be used to provide a temporary cover in a double-cropping system or as a salvage crop to make use of fertilizer that has been applied to summer row crops that have failed. Finally, summer annual forage grass makes sense to use in an annual rotation forage system.

There are a few things to take into consideration when deciding whether or not it makes good financial sense to use summer annual forage grasses:

  1. What are my forage needs in terms of livestock feed?
  2. What class of animal am I feeding? Dairy almost always justifies the use of summer annuals. If it is an emergency situation, beef cows and calves do, as well. When it comes to beef stockers depend on the price of cattle. Finally, for equine, it depends on need and other available options.
  3. What are current cattle and dairy prices?

Unfortunately, there is always a chance of drought. While spring planting is recommended, that planting can be variable. The benefit of summer annual forage grasses is that it can produce an adequate yield in about six months, even if they are planted later than other crops.

Posted By: The Hay Manager

Posted on: 05/31/2018
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