The drought of 2012 has caused many livestock producers to question the feed they have on hand or will be harvesting this fall. Will we have adequate quantity and quality to feed our animals? Will I be able to pay the added cost to supplement my livestock, or will I have to sell a portion or all of my animals?
These questions have the producers looking for answers that will help them through this drought period. With the shorter, stunted crops we are experiencing this year, it will be good practice to install cover crops this fall. The lack of normal crop growth this year will mean less residue to protect the soil from erosion, and more nutrients unused.
Planting and growing cover crops this fall can accomplish a twofold deed. The crop will provide soil cover, utilizing the excess N-P-K and provide an opportunity for alternative feed for this fall and next spring. Grazing cover crops is an alternative that should be considered.
Several combinations of cover crops have potentials for this area.
If a producer does not want to have their cover crop overwinter then oats and turnips are a great choice for fall and winter grazing. Plant two bushels per acre of oats and add 5 pounds of Appin turnips per acre. It is best to strip graze this mix to get the best results and the most feed. This mix can be planted after corn silage harvest.
Cereal rye and oats and Appin turnips This mix is for producers that wants both fall and spring feed. Plant 1 bushel per acre cereal rye, plus 1.5 bushels per acre of oats and 5 pounds per acre of Appin turnips.
If overwintering is a concern then an option would be to plant 60 pounds of oats per acre. Strip grazing will yield the best results and the most available forage.
Planting cereal rye will extend the planting time if harvest is delayed. Cereal rye planted at 90 pounds per acre will yield good results. Recommended planting dates would be from Aug. 1 to Nov. 1.
Contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District for assistance in planning a successful cover crop planting. Several SWCDs have no-till drills available for rent to assist producers in establishing cover crops, legumes and small grain seedings.
(Ray Rummell retired the NRCS after 35 years of service with USDA. He is now working part time with Carroll SWCD as a technician. Ray and his wife Rhonda live in Carroll County and are very active with the Carroll County Fair.)