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Plan Now for Late Summer and Fall Forage

Plan Now for Late Summer and Fall Forage
Sorghum-sudangrass one option for fall grazing.

If you have livestock and idle ground after wheat, now may be a great time to plant some sort of forage crop for late summer and fall. Victor Sheldon, a grazing specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, says a general class of plants known as brassicas can make good grazing. With plenty of moisture in the soil, it should be a good time to plant these crops and get them germinated and growing.

Up and away: This sorghum-sudangrass farm planted by a dairyman was only about six weeks old when this photo was snapped.

Sorghum sudangrass is a typical option. It will grow quickly and can be grazed safely until the first killing frost. After that, nitrate issues need to be considered before continuing grazing. The impressive thing about this forage is that it grows tall, and as long as there is ample moisture, will regrow quickly if cattle are removed for a few days.

Kale is good for late summer seeding, Sheldon adds. Turnips can be seeded now or later, and mix well with Italian ryegrass for fall pasture. However, he advises against using Italian ryegrass in crop fields because it can be hard to kill. How hard? He recommends annual ryegrass instead, and some people find annual ryegrass a challenge to burn down in the spring before planting a crop.

The secret is to drill these crops into a firm seedbed, but only about one-fourth of an inch deep or less. That means barely scratching the surface if you're no-tilling. You must control any other type of growth out there for no-till to work with these crops. If you till the ground, use a culti-packer, broadcast seed the crop, then run the culti-packer over the planted soil again. A typical rate for most crops in the brassica family is about 4 pounds per acre. Certain species may need to be seeded somewhat thicker. Refer to the seed bag for specific guidelines on seeding rates.

If you're planting them in crop fields or after another crop, check with your crop insurance agent first to make sure grazing later in the fall won't cause issues with crop insurance coverage.

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