Summer Forages 2016

As we enter the summer months, most parts of the province are short on rain and forage yields are down for 1st cut, with 2nd cut looking to be poor at the moment. For farmers thinking of alternatives for forage production this fall and next spring there are some options to consider.

Following winter wheat and summer cereal crops is the opportunity to plant oat/pea or silobuster mixtures. These mixes are relatively inexpensive to plant and will have the highest yield in the fall for silage or baleage. Speare Seeds’ Silobuster™ Forage Blend is an ideal cover crop for overseeding forage stands. For best feed quality and highest protein, harvest when the grain is in the boot stage; tonnage can be maximized if harvested when the heads have just emerged.

Sorghum Sudangrass is another option to consider. Its thin stems make it highly palatable and it has quick regrowth. When used as forage, proper management must be exercised following stress, drought or frost as Prussic Acid poisoning can be a potential hazard. Ensure you allow enough time for maturity before frost.

Fall rye or winter triticale can be planted mid-summer through late fall to be harvested as fall forage or as a source of feed in spring (mid to late May). Fall rye is more winter hardy and can be planted later. Winter triticale isn’t as hardy, should be planted in September but is usually better quality feed than fall rye.

Barenbrug’s NutriFiber Italian Ryegrass – ‘Green Spirit’ can be used for a high quality forage or pasture. It should be planted by the beginning to middle of September to have enough growth to overwinter, keeping in mind that it isn’t as winter hardy as fall rye. Due to its quick regrowth, very early development in spring and prolonged growing period in the fall, this species usually has greater overall productivity than other cool season grasses. Crops that follow a stand of Italian ryegrass also show higher yields, compared to other green manure crops.

For fall and winter pasture following a cereal crop, brassicas and oats work well. Hunter brassica is the earliest to mature, ready to pasture 6-8 weeks after planting under ideal conditions. Winfred brassica is the next earliest along with Barkant and purple top turnip. Fodder rape and Kale are also options for fall pasture. The advantage to kale is that it has the best cold tolerance growing late into the fall. A seeding rate of 3-5 lbs. per acre of a brassica(s) and 50 lbs. of oats will provide late season grazing.

Please contact us if you have any questions or are looking for suggestions for your particular situation and we will do our best to help you out.