Due to the weather challenges faced this year, livestock producers may be looking for some options to add to their forage supplies and/or to produce some higher quality forage. Recently, Mark Sulc, OSU Extension forage specialist, outlined some supplemental forage options. Here is an excerpt from that article:
Early August Plantings
The best options are to plant spring oat, spring triticale, or annual ryegrass (see section below on annual ryegrass). An increasing number of Ohio producers are gaining experience with August plantings of oat. Oat seed usually can be purchased at a more economical price than spring triticale, but either species will produce good dry matter yields within 60 to 80 days after planting. When planted the first two weeks of August and with adequate rainfall, oat and spring triticale can produce from 2500 to 5000 lbs. /acre of dry matter by mid-October. The lower yields occur when leaf rust becomes a problem, which is a possibility in a damp year like we've had so far. Early August planted oats or spring triticale forage will have crude protein (CP) content of 12 to 15% and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) of 38 to 50% depending on planting date and stage at harvest. These small grains will have to be put up as silage or balage if being mechanically harvested.
When planting in early August, field peas or soybeans could be added to the mixture to boost the CP content of the forage, an important consideration for dairy producers this year. While we have no data on planting such mixtures in August, we would expect the CP content to be increased by 3 to 4 percentage units when including field peas or soybeans with oats or spring triticale planted by August 10 to15. This should provide an extra value of $40 to $50/acre from the increased protein content of the forage. This needs to be compared to the extra cost of the legume seed included in the mixture. Field peas should be inoculated with N-fixing bacteria and sown in the mixture at 70 to 90 lb. /acre. Soybean seeding rates for this application are not well-defined, but perhaps should be included in the mixture at 60 to 70% of normal soybean seeding rates. If the legume seed cost is no more than $50/acre, then including the legume in the mixture should be cost effective for lactating dairy cows, because the legume-small grain mixture should have lower NDF content leading to higher forage intake and greater milk production.
Several brassica species can be planted in early August for autumn and early winter grazing. For more information on this option, refer to The Ohio Agronomy Guide, pages 114-118.
Late August to Early September Plantings
Spring oat, spring triticale, and annual ryegrass can also be planted from late August to mid-September, immediately after an early corn silage harvest. These later planting dates will produce lower yields (1500 to 3000 lbs. dry matter/acre) than early August plantings and harvest will be delayed into months with poor drying conditions. Plantings in early September would be an excellent option for grazing or green chopping. Forage quality will be very high with these later plantings - CP will range from 20 to 32%, NDF will be 30 to 38%, and NDF digestibility will be 75 to 85%. If an early spring forage harvest is desirable next year, winter triticale and winter rye should be included in mixture with the spring oat and spring triticale planted in late August and early September.
Annual/Italian Ryegrass Option
Annual/Italian ryegrass is another good option for producing high quality forage, especially for grazing in late autumn and early winter followed by forage harvests or grazing next year. Some varieties are more likely to survive the winter than others. The varieties Marshall, Winterhawk, and Fria all survived the very cold winter of 2013-2014 much better than many other varieties we tested. The forage quality of annual/Italian ryegrass will be at least equal to or higher than that of the small grain forages discussed above. We have planted annual ryegrass in early September for several years, obtaining 800 to 2000 lbs. of dry matter/acre of forage by late November and early December, with yields of 3 to 5 tons of dry matter/acre the following year from improved varieties with good winter survival and with adequate nitrogen fertilization. Annual ryegrass can be planted earlier in August, especially if soil moisture is present which should provide higher yields in late autumn (up to 3000 lbs. /acre dry matter).