Monday, August 13, 2012

Small Grains for Livestock Forage

Small grains can be seeded the last week of August to provide additional forage for livestock producers. Small grains include winter wheat, winter rye and triticale. Spring oats can be planted in the fall but will winter-kill but will also produce good forage.
The key issue is moisture to get plants emerged and then to grow. Choose the soil resource you have on your farm which would be the best opportunity for growth. Soils which have good top-soil hold more water than eroded hillsides.
Winter wheat has the most flexibility. It is a crop that is suited to dry conditions. When planting, wheat and all small grains should have a firm seedbed for proper seed to soil contact. I would use 2 to 3 bushel per acre as we need a lot of fall growth. In the spring, you have the option to utilize for forage or grain production as a risk tool.
Winter rye produces the most forage. It has more growth in the fall and earlier growth in the spring. However, it is a forage source and with limited grain use.
Triticale is a cross between wheat and rye. It is used around the area by dairy farmers. It is a good source of forage and but limited grain use.
Small grains can be used for grazing, hay or silage. After emergence, nitrogen fertilizer should be added to stimulate growth. Normally, we would recommend nitrogen fertilizer at planting but adjust based on soil moisture.
Small grains can be interseeded into drought stricken pastures. If pastures have been heavily grazed and soils which have potential to hold moisture, this is another option to add fall grazing. The risk is that the pasture sod has removed all water from the soil so this is risky. Graze existing grasses short to reduce competition from pasture grasses if growing.
Growers who have harvested corn silage can benefit from planting small grains into remaining stubble. Herbicides that have the highest risk potential to wheat injury include those which target grassy weeds and those which have long rotational guidelines which indicate long residual herbicides.
For more information, contact Wayne Flanary at 660-446-3724 or Heather Benedict at 660-425-6434, Regional Agronomists, University of Missouri Extension.

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