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Fill in the Summer Slump with Warm-Season Annual Forages

Planting warm-season annual forages can be a viable option to fill in the summer slump of cool-season pastures and extend the grazing season into fall and winter. The selection of warm-season annual forages includes corn, forage sorghum, sorghum/sudangrass hybrids, pearl and foxtail millet, and teff. The type of warm-season forage should be chosen based on the adaptation of the species to the intended use, yield potential, and feeding value for the livestock program.

 
Although annual forages are often used as emergency crops in times of drought, they should be part of the planned forage system. When deciding whether to incorporate annual forages into your forage system, you should consider the following advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages:
  • Quick source of forage
  • Rapid payback on establishment costs
  • Breaks disease and pest cycles in crop rotations
  • Flexibility to either graze at peak quality, ensile, or stockpile for fall/winter grazing
  • High water use efficiency and nutrient uptake potential

Disadvantages:

  • Soil temperatures must be above 50-60 degrees F 
  • Growth stops with the first frost
  • Forage quality is typically lower than cool-season forages at the same maturity
  • Planting and harvesting windows for highest forage quality are narrower than cool-season forages

Keep in mind that forage yield can vary greatly across different years, climates, and even within a site. Forage quality tends to decline as yield increases and is largely determined by the stage of maturity.

 
For more information on warm-season annual forages, check out the article sourced below.
 
Source: Glenn Shewmaker and Christi Falen, “Plan for summer slump with warm-season annual forages,” Progressive Forage Grower, April 1, 2013: 6-8.

 
 

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