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The Cattle Connection

The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies
cover crop

Fall Forage Opportunities

As some parts of Illinois receive much needed rainfall this week, the hot topic has been fall forage opportunities. A little rainfall, crops coming out early, and feed shortages make planting fall forages something farmers should consider.

Many producers have already identified the opportunity to put Oats, Rye, Turnips, or other forage crops in this fall. As a result, expect to see shortages in seed supplies, higher priced seed, and some delay if seed is not in stock. However, don't let this keep you from consulting your seed salesman. They will have options for you.

I feel cover crops may be as good of an option as ever. Not only will they provide added forage for our livestock in a drought, but they can utilize excess nutrients that are left over in fields from drought-stricken crops. Just think of the size of the weeds you will be growing in your fields... maybe a cover crop would be a good option.

In a recent discussion with Ed Ballard, retired UI Extension and forage expert, I posed him with a few popular questions I have received.

Q1: What timeline do I have to get fall forages planted?
Ed: Oats and Turnips: Prior to September 1st; Annual Ryegrass: August 15th through September 30th; Cereal Rye or Triticale between September 1st and October 15th – Normal growing period is 60 to 75 days.

Q2: What are the seeding rates?
Ed: I like the mixture of 2 bu./acre Oats and 4 lbs./acre of forage turnip. Also, 1.5 bu./acre Oats and 1.5 bu./acre of Cereal Rye for grazing in the fall and early spring. If seeded alone: Drill Annual rye at 20 lbs./acre, Cereal rye at 90 lbs./acre, Oats at 3 bu./acre

Q3: How much rainfall do I need to have a successful seeding and normal yields?
Ed: I like to see ½ to 1 inch within 10 days of planting and another inch of rain in the next 20 days.

Q4: What if I can't get Oats?
Ed: Spring Barley would be my next choice.

Q5: What about herbicide carry-over?
Ed: It is an issue this year. Idle wheat acres should be safe. Planting on corn silage acres or after corn could be an issue. Check the herbicides used or do a bio-assay. You can grab some soil from different spots in the field, plant your seeds, water for a week or two and see what you get. Normally, if there has been over 1 pound of Atrazine applied problems are likely.

Q6: Are any crops less sensitive to herbicide carry-over?
Ed: Annual, Italian, and Perennial Ryegrass are less sensitive than the brassica plants

Remember that flexibility is vital to making it through a drought. Fall forage opportunities are very good this year, given some rainfall. They may provide the extra feed and grazing days that we greatly need this year.

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