Kevin Stockwell saw the shortage in forage coming, so after he combined wheat on his 100 acres near Hudson in Steuben County, he seeded sorghum sudangrass. The weather turned in his favor. The drought in his area let up and he received rain just before and after he seeded. Today he has a lush crop of the fast-growing forage in the field.
Stockwell and his family operate Stockwell Farms, Inc., a 400 cow-plus, third generation dairy farm. He uses the majority of the land he farms for feed for the cattle anyway. Usually, he wouldn't need the extra forage provided by sorghum sudangrass, but this isn't a normal year.FORAGE POWER: This sorghum sudangrass on Kevin Stockwell's farm will provide emergency forage for his dairy operation.
Stockwell intends to chop and ensile the forage. Sorghum sudangrass is typically a good energy feed but is not high in protein. It could need to be supplemented, depending upon how it is fed and to which class of cattle it is fed to. It would not have enough protein to foster good milk production for lactating dairy cows on its own.
If you have the fast-growing forage and your farm and are grazing it, be careful to investigate rules about holding cattle off of it immediately after a freeze. It can be toxic for a short period due to chemicals that build up within the plant after a hard frost or freeze.
Other possibilities for emergency fall forage include wheat and rye. Barry Fisher, agronomist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, says that if it's seeded this fall, it may provide fall grazing, perhaps spring grazing, and still produce a grain or hay crop next spring. The secret will be having enough moisture to get the crop established.
Stockwell used a John Deere 750 no-till drill to no-till the sorghum sudangrass he seeded into wheat stubble. He achieved an adequate stand, and credits rain after seeding as a big plus in getting the crop established.