Here are some ways to stretch forage supplies:
Fertilizing grass pastures. Nitrogen stimulates more grass production. The first 30-40 pounds of nitrogen per acre are used most efficiently (i.e., there is more grass growth per pound of nitrogen applied at these levels). If fertilizer budgets are tight, consider applying modest nitrogen rates over more pasture acres or apply limited nitrogen purchases to the most productive areas of the pasture first.
Using cereal grains for forage. The vegetative growth of cereal grains is excellent emergency forage for either grazing or stored feed. The nutritional values of cereal grain forage are greatest before heading. As seed stems form and become mature, greater yield per acre is available but at a lower nutrient value per mouthful. Cereal grains such as oats, barley, and spring wheat are cool-season crops. Planting cereal grains in mid-late spring would be relatively inefficient; summer annual grasses would be a more appropriate use of acres for emergency forage planting this late in the season.
Planting summer annual forages. Sudan-grass, sorghum x sudangrass hybrids, foxtail millet, and possibly Japanese millet are fast-growing forage grasses. Planting should be delayed until soils warm and the chance of frost is past. With adequate weather and moisture, these grasses often will reach a grazable stage of growth within 45 to 50 days after emergence. Like cereals, the more stem development in the growth, the greater the yield, the lower the quality, and often the more difficult to dry for safe storage as dry hay; grazing or silage may be better harvest alternatives. Sudangrass and sorghum x sudangrass hybrids have some special management considerations when grazed. Sudangrass and sorghum x sudangrass hybrids are not recommended for horses.
This article originally appeared on page 46 of the IC-478 (6) -- April 28, 1997 issue.