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Summer annual forages for grazing, silage or haying

alffoto/Getty images Forage sorghum
ANNUAL GRASSES: Forage sorghum or other types of annual forage grasses make for perfect grazing or haying options during the summer.
Each summer annual grass has its own best use, so get the selection right according to your plans.

Are you planning to plant a summer annual grass, maybe to build hay supply or have some extra grazing? Which one will you plant?

It can be confusing because there are six different types of major summer annual forage grasses. These include sudangrass, sorghum-sudan hybrids, forage sorghum (which we often call cane or sorgo), foxtail millet, pearl millet and teff. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. So, base your choice primarily on how you plan to use it.

For example, do you want pasture? Then use sudangrass or pearl millet. Both are leafy, regrow rapidly and contain less danger from prussic acid poisoning than other annual grasses.

What if you want hay or greenchop? Then select sorghum-sudan hybrids or pearl millet because they yield well, and they have good feed value when cut two or three times. On sandy soils or when conditions are dry, foxtail millet may be a better choice for summer hay. It dries fast, doesn't regrow after cutting and handles dry soils well. 

Cane hay is grown in many areas and produces high tonnage, but it’s lower in feed value and dries more slowly after cutting than the hybrids or millets. Or you could choose teff for a really soft, leafy, high-quality horse hay.

Maybe you plan to chop silage. Then choose the forage sorghums, especially hybrids with high grain production. They can't be beat for tonnage or for feed value.

While there are several choices of summer annual forages, select the one that is best adapted to the way you plan to use it. And, of course, hope for rain since even these grasses won’t grow without some moisture.  

Voletsky is a Nebraska Extension range and forage specialist.

Source: UNL Pasture and Forage Minute, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
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