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Adjusting to a Summer Decline in Forage Production

Oftentimes, forage experiences a decline in production during the summer months. Changes in temperature, humidity and precipitation can be particularly troublesome. Government regulations stipulate that pasture must be grazed for a minimum of 120 days. Usually, especially in places with colder winters, this grazing occurs between the end of spring and the beginning of autumn. Therefore, this production decrease sometimes found in June, July and August is particularly worrisome. However, using annual and perennial crops during the grazing season can prove to be an extremely effective way to combat this annoyance.

For one, annuals stand up well in the face of drought. Obviously, given the tendency of the summer months to produce sweltering temperatures with little rain as a reprieve, this is a vital feature to possess. Although they are not necessarily best served as the primary crop, when a dry spell hits, they make for excellent backups to perennials. When needed in the case of particularly dry weather, this type of forage can yield similar results for those animals grazing it—they receive a similar amount of sugar and carbohydrates, which are essential for healthy livestock.

Livestock will have no trouble digesting annuals if it is necessary to use those as livestock feed. Sometimes, substitute crops may entail digestive problems, and, moreover, they may be difficult to chew. However, when needed in a pinch, one can rest assured that annuals will not carry any of this extra baggage.

Annuals are not necessarily a perfect substitute for perennials, though. Namely, their overall protein contents are lower, so even though they may provide a satisfactory amount of sugar and carbs to the grazing livestock, they will not nourish livestock the same as perennials would. With less protein, however, livestock’s nitrogen utilization may be enhanced, so there is a definite trade-off to consider when it comes to the lower protein content found in annuals. And what the annuals lack in protein they make up for in fiber. That is, annuals have more fiber that there perennial counterparts. If this indicates anything, however, it is that annuals should not be used as replacements for perennials. They should either be used as supplementary forage or as substitutes in times of dry weather.

The summer months can be stressful, as dry weather can hurt the production of certain types of forage. To counteract this problem, it is recommended to diversify one’s forage by using annuals and perennials as well as using annuals when the weather dictates.

Posted By: The Hay Manager

Posted on: 06/30/2017
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