Over the past two years, I have been experimenting with seeding spring oats and annual ryegrass into pastures as a way to provide additional high-quality forage.
We have long known that these forages and others could be established when conventionally seeded, no tilled, or aerially seeded. However, when seeding directly pasture, there are some guidelines to follow that help to ensure success.
Seeding. In our system we would like to provide additional high quality forage during the fall and early winter months.
When to seed annuals depends on when you need the extra forage and the environmental conditions at seeding. For us, oats or annual ryegrass are planted the last week in August.
In 2002, we did not have any soil moisture at that time, however the seeding still did well.
This year, with all of the excess moisture, the seed germinated very quickly.
Our seed bed is just the heavily grazed pastures and we do not use any chemicals.
Keys to success. Make plantings into areas that have been heavily grazed 2-3 inches or less of stubble.
Planting into cool season grass pastures that are taller can create intense competition for seedling growth. Plant the seedings to be in areas you want to be grazing in the fall or winter.
Our sites fit into our late season rotation, are dry and have access to water.
Spring oats are relatively inexpensive at $5.50 a 2-bushel bag.
I would plant no-till oats at 2 bushels per acre based on what I have learned.
After planting we let the forage grow at least to 8 inches tall before grazing. These plants will continue to regrow even after they have been grazed if they don’t get a heavy frost.
Locations. In a dry year, you have more options for planting locations.
This year, planting into perennial ryegrass and bluegrass resulted in much poorer stands since these plants were already growing well when we seeded in the oats and they are dense forming cool-season grasses.
Options. In a dry year, as long as the stubble is short, you can no-till oats or annual ryegrass into any cool season pasture.
Annual ryegrass can also be broadcast seeded.
Oats have not done as well for us when seeded broadcast.
Annual ryegrass is considerably more expensive than spring oats and can cost approximately $50 a bag and we have seeded them at 30 pounds per acre.
The annual ryegrass does come up again the next spring early and can be grazed before other perennial grasses can if not over grazed in the fall.
Neither of these two options has adversely affected the composition or yield of our perennial pastures.
Both of these annuals can provide high quality forage late into the year while requiring little cost for establishment and we keep our perennial pastures intact.
(The author is an OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent in Guernsey County. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem OH 44460.)