Beth Doran, Joel DeJong, and Brian Lang of the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach recently provided some factors producers will want to consider as they look ahead to summer forage planting. The experts recognize that a wet fall, unseasonably cold temperatures and excess rain have cattle and sheep producers concerned about managing forage shortages this summer.
“The good news is there are haying, grazing and silage options,” said Doran, a beef specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. "But, before a final decision is implemented, producers should check with their crop insurance agents about their alternative plans."
Lang, an extension field agronomist with the ISU Extension, notes that most short-term forages are fast-growing annual crops. Sorghums and millets are typically grown for summer forage, and each forage species has unique characteristics, such as growing season, size, regrowth potential and feed value. Producers will need to take all of these factors into account.
Sorghums and millets are usually planted once soil temperatures reach at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit, up through early July. Producers should not cut or graze shorter than a 5-to-6-inch stubble height to ensure adequate regrowth.
Teff, a new forage species, shows rapid regrowth in the mid-summer. For good regrowth, producers should not cut or graze shorter than 4-to-5 inches.
“The species of choice for fall grazing cover crops is highly dependent on how early they can be planted,” said DeJong, field agronomist with ISU. “For fall grazing, most cover crop species such as cool-season annual grasses, cereals and brassicas yield more forage when planted mid-summer. If planted after early September, cereal rye and triticale, which is a cross of wheat and rye, are better suited for the shorter growing season.”
More information on both summer and fall forage planting can be found on the ISU Extension website at www.extension.iastate.edu.