Grazing: Explore extended grazing season forage options

With many harvested small grain fields that weren’t double cropped to soybeans now sitting idle, cattlemen still have an excellent opportunity to create high quality forages that may be grazed well into winter, and even next spring.
With four years of experience with summer-planted oats under our belts, preceded by several years of experience with cereal rye, we know there’s still plenty of time to ‘create’ anywhere from 2 to 5 tons of forages in wheat stubble or otherwise vacant fields.
Better yet, if you are fortunate enough to be in a Conservation Security Program watershed and are accepted into the program, the extended grazing options that are discussed below may be eligible for an additional enhancement payment.
For the balance of this summer we are continuing to demonstrate and experiment with a number of variations on the August seeded oats you’ve heard about previously.
Reasonable alternatives. Based on what we’ve learned so far, we believe the alternatives mentioned below deserve consideration by anyone needing additional high quality forages to extend the grazing season.
If your primary needs are forages for grazing, hay, or silage later this summer and fall, oats appear to be the most productive, least-cost option at this time.
Alternatives include:
— No-till oats. No-till 60-90 pounds into harvested wheat or oat fields, or harvested corn silage fields anytime up until early September.
It appears that late July or early August may be the optimum time to plant oats when high quality forage is the goal. Spring oats seldom make seed when planted after the days begin to shorten in July, but will continue to grow leaf until Thanksgiving or after in Ohio.
Consider applying approximately 50 pounds of nitrogen about 60 days before you plan to harvest them, regardless of the harvest method.
— Double crop with corn. Aerial seed 100 to 120 pounds of oats into standing corn in August. Pay attention to the herbicide program you’ve used on the corn to be certain it doesn’t conflict with oat establishment or grazing/harvest restrictions.
Our experiences with this alternative have been variable — some fields produced very well, while others achieved a less-than-perfect stand. It appears that the best stands come in fields that are totally weed free, and the earlier the corn is harvested, the more abundant the oats become.
In nearly every case, the value of the forage produced has exceeded the costs of aerial seeding, approximately $10 per acre, plus the seed costs.
In addition, the high quality oat forage that results will allow for better utilization of the grazed corn stalks.
— Double crop with soybeans. Aerial seed 100 to 120 pounds of oats into standing soybeans in early September as the soybean leaves first begin to turn.
Again, pay attention to the herbicide program you’ve used on the soybeans to be certain it doesn’t conflict with oat establishment or grazing/harvest restrictions.
Results with this alternative have been a little more consistent than what we experienced in the standing corn, but less productive than the best corn stalk fields due to the later seeding date.
If your primary needs are forage for grazing, hay, or silage next spring, cereal rye appears to be the best alternative.
The opportunity exists to graze it in the late summer and fall, however, the most abundant tonnage will come in the spring.
In addition to planting it with the options mentioned above for oats, you may also no-till it after row crop harvest — particularly soybeans and silage corn — this fall.
Fact sheet. See the Ohio State University Extension Agronomy Fact Sheet AGF-0026-00, Winter Rye for Extending the Grazing Season for more details on growing cereal rye.
This publication may be found in OSU Extension offices or online at: http://ohioline.osu.edu/agf-fact/0026.html.
If your primary needs are grazeable forages as soon as possible, consider turnips or a combination of oats and turnips. Previous summers we’ve seen good results locally when planting a ‘grazing turnip’ such as Appin in combination with oats.
If some precipitation is received shortly after planting, this combination could be strip grazed as early as five to six weeks after planting.
More fiber. The oats will provide some additional fiber in this grazing mix, and the Appin turnips will continue to regrow after being topped off with an early grazing.
These web links will show you what this combination looks like after only five weeks of spring growth: http://fairfield.osu.edu/ag/beef/OatsTrnp.jpg, and also after six and a half weeks of growth: http://fairfield.osu.edu/ag/beef/OatsTrnp2.jpg.
As you review your options, realize that at times seed oats are difficult to purchase this time of year. Contact the Ohio Seed Improvement Association, 614-889-1136, or visit www.ohseed.org for a list of growers who may have seed oats available.
Keeping updated. If you take the opportunity to try any of these extended grazing or forage production alternatives, please keep us updated on your progress and success.
Or if you have questions or would like further information, feel free to contact us at the office 740-653-5419 or by e-mail fair@ag.osu.edu.
(Allen Gahler is a OSU Extension director and educator for Fairfield County, Ohio. Stan Smith, who also contributed to this article, is an agricultural program assistant also in Fairfield County. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem OH 44460.)

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