North Central Research Extension Center


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Using Farmland for Pasture

March 31, 2015

With favorable cattle prices, interest in increasing cow numbers, and limiteFarmland_for_Pastured pasture availability; there is interest in planting annual forage/grazing crops  for supplemental grazing capacity.  A number of crops have good forage qualities and can be considered depending on the season of need, seed cost and availability, and intended grazing management.

For the earliest opportunity to graze, an April planted cereal as oats might be considered.  It will be ready for grazing at a height of 8-10’.  It would likely take about a month after emergence to achieve this growth, with time from planting to emergence dependent  on temperature and conditions.  For greatest carrying capacity, it should be utilized in a rest/rotational basis such as strip grazing or dividing into 3-4 blocks (grazing one while allowing recovery for subsequent grazing of previously grazed).  To minimize potential for nitrate accumulation under stressed growing conditions, consider limiting applied N fertilizer to 50 lbs.  By itself a fairly high seeding rate (>2bu) should be used, but consideration might be given to including 1-2 lbs  of radish and turnip, and a warm season grass (millet or sorghum x sudan) for diversity and potential for regrowth in summer heat and cool fall.

More cropping choices should be considered if grazing is needed in late summer or to extend grazing into the fall-winter.  Warm season grasses or dominated mixes planted in mid-late June could be grazed in late summer, windrowed in September for late season swath grazing, or if containing some cool season species as the brassicas or legumes be utilized as stockpiled dormant season grazing.

Filed under: Livestock Update
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