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Foxtail Millets for Hay (05/27/21)

Many areas of North Dakota have been under drought conditions for an extended period. Some livestock owners are starting to wonder about availability of hay for this year.

Many areas of North Dakota have been under drought conditions for an extended period. Some livestock owners are starting to wonder about availability of hay for this year. There is an opportunity for crop producers to grow hay as a cash crop for those in need of forage. Livestock owners may also consider some short season millets for hay production.

Foxtail millets are often grown for short season emergency hay crops. Planting of foxtail millets can be delayed until mid‑June into July. When used for emergency hay production, late planting is usually encountered. Therefore, anyone making the decision to plant for emergency forage crops, should be checking with seed suppliers as soon as possible.

Plant foxtail millet about ¾ to 1 inch deep. Shallower seeding may be desirable on heavy textured soils with good moisture. Germination is fairly rapid but the seedlings grow slow at the beginning. Foxtail millets in general are poor competitors with weeds. A seeding rate of 10 to 20 pounds per acre is recommended. The higher rates are recommended in eastern North Dakota with the higher rainfall potential. In western North Dakota, 15 pounds is adequate on weed free fields.

 There are several hay type millets and they include:

Siberian millet has medium‑sized stems and possesses some drought tolerance, after it is well established. The seed head is cylindrical, 5/8 to 3/4 inch in diameter, 4 to 6 inches long, and has

purple bristles. It matures in about 75 to 80 days and produces a hay crop in 55 to 60 days.

German millet has thicker stems and broader leaves. The seed head is lobed, measuring 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter and 6 to 9 inches long. Bristles are greenish to purple. It is a longer season foxtail, which takes about 90 or more days to mature and 65 to 70 days to produce a hay crop. Because of its increased stem size, it takes more haying management than the other foxtail millets to produce good quality hay.

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 Cut millets for hay in the late boot to early bloom growth stage. Any delay after full head emergence will reduce quality. Bristles become harder as maturity approaches and may cause sore mouth and eye infections when fed to livestock. Hay protein content is highest when the ratio of leaves to stems is highest. Curing foxtail millet requires attention as light stands tend to sun dry rapidly after cutting, while heavy stands, especially of the German type, cure at a slower rate. If expected yield levels are greater than 1 ½ tons per acre, crimping will help the curing process. Potential yield of foxtail millet hay is influenced by moisture relationships.

Other millets can be grown in North Dakota like forage pearl millet and Japanese millet (Table 1).

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Some trial information about millets is available at:

https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/varietytrials/millet

 

Information about several annual forage crops is available at:

https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/plantsciences/research/forages/annual-forages

 

Forage variety trial results is available at: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/varietytrials/forages

                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

Hans Kandel

Extension Agronomist Broadleaf Crops

 

Marisol Berti

Professor Forage, Cover Crops, and Biomass

This site is supported in part by the Crop Protection and Pest Management Program [grant no. 2017-70006-27144/accession 1013592] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the website author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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