Dr. Don Dorsett and Dr. Billy E. Warrick
Summer annual forages are often a part of the total forage program of many livestock producers. They are used to provide a plentiful supply of high-quality forage for grazing in mid-summer when perennial grasses are often relatively low in yield and/or quality. They are also used to provide hay, silage, and green-chop. Because summer annuals have to be established each year, their production costs are usually higher than warm-season perennial. Summer annuals can provide the quantity of forage at a time when it often cannot be supplied any other way. They therefore can serve as a useful part of the total forage program. Summer annuals can be used to: 1) supplement permanent pastures, and 2) enable better management of perennial pastures and rangelands. Since considerable cost is involved in the production of summer annuals, forage alternatives must be considered in relation to costs, returns, and type of livestock enterprise involved. Potential quality of forage provided by summer annuals is usually most profitable when used by producing dairy cows, steers or beef cows.
CHOICE OF PLANTS
Several groups and varieties of summer annual plants are used to provide forage. These are listed in Table 1 and in the following discussion. Selection of a hybrid or variety to be grown should be based on adaptation, yield potential, and how it will fit a particular farm or livestock enterprise.
Sorghums for forage can be grouped into two general categories based on frequency of harvest and use. These are: 1) those harvested frequently as grazing, green-chopping, hay or haylage (sudan hybrids, sudan varieties, sudan-johnsongrass types) and 2) those that are harvested only once or twice during the season for silage, green-chop and sometimes hay and bundle feed (forage and grain sorghum varieties and hybrids).
Sudangrass was first introduced and grown in Texas in 1909. It soon became an important pasture plant. After the original introduction, several improved varieties were developed and have been used widely. Then came the development and introduction of the sudan-johnsongrass types which are classified as weak perennial. These replaced sudan varieties only under a few conditions. In more recent years, sudan hybrids have been developed and introduced. These are hybrids with sudan as at least one parent. Hybrids essentially have replaced the use of sudan varieties. Currently, more than 100 such named hybrids are being marketed. These are largely hybrids resulting from grain sorghum x sudan crosses. A few are forage sorghum x sudan crosses; and some have sudan or similar type grasses as both parents. Based on research results on a limited number of these hybrids, the following statements can be made about them: 1. Hybrids generally grow faster, produce more total dry matter and recover more rapidly following harvest than the sudan varieties and the sudan johnsongrass types. 2. Leaf percentage of hybrids appears to be generally lower than that of the sudan varieties; therefore, leaf yield may not be much greater. 3. Sudan hybrids and varieties appear to be similar in quality when measured chemically and have given similar performance when utilized by livestock. 4. Hybrid planting seeds range from being similar to grain sorghum to much like sudan. Cultural and manage practices are similar for sudan varieties and hybrids. 5. Their best use appears to be for grazing, hay, haylage and green-chop. When considering both yield and quality, the boot stage should normally give the highest total digestible nutrients per acre. Research has shown that total leaf yield reaches a maximum about the time plants begin to boot. Therefore, increased yield after this stage is primarily in the form of stems.
Forage sorghum varieties were first introduced and grown in Texas in 1857. Many hybrids have since been developed, introduced and widely used. More recently, forage sorghum hybrids have been developed and are in use. These hybrids have resulted largely from grain sorghum x forage sorghum crosses. A few are forage x forage sorghum crosses. These hybrids are replacing forage sorghum varieties, but not to the extent that the sudan hybrids have replaced sudan varieties. Approximately 90 such named hybrids are being marketed. The following general statements can be made regarding these: 1) The later the maturity, the greater the yield of both hybrids and varieties. 2) Within a maturity group, hybrids generally tend to yield more than the varieties. 3) Forage hybrids differ in many characteristics, such as days to maturity, yield, plant height, stalk size and percent head or grain. It is therefore possible to obtain a “tailor-made” hybrid if desired specifications are known. Tall, late-maturing hybrids generally produce very high tonnages, but small grain amounts. Shorter hybrids are available which are medium to early maturing and yield more grain than late-maturing hybrids. 4) Forage sorghum hybrids best use appears to be for silage and green-chop. Hybrids are harvested at a later stage of maturity than the sudan hybrids to take advantage of the yield potential and to obtain maximum total digestible nutrients and a higher dry-matter silage. The soft-dough stage is usually suggested for harvest. At this stage the protein content will be relatively low, but the energy value will be at its maximum. 5) Cultural and management practices are similar for varieties and hybrids.
GRAIN SORGHUM HYBRIDS
Grain sorghum hybrids are finding acceptance as a silage crop. Where silage is to serve as a major source of energy, grain sorghum is generally considered second choice to corn, followed by grain-type forage sorghum. For information on production practices for grain sorghum, see Keys to Profitable Grain Sorghum Production, available at county Extension offices.
Pearl millet (cattail millet) is grown to some extent to furnish forage for the same purposes as the sudan varieties and hybrids. Yields are usually lower than the sudan hybrids except under certain sandy, acid soil conditions in East Texas, and in other areas where iron chlorosis is a severe problem. Pearl millet is equal in quality to sudan and the sudan hybrids, and is more leafy. Millet can be grazed safely by horses and does not develop a prussic acid problem. It should be harvested in the boot stage for maximum total digestible nutrients per acre. Other millets in use are German (foxtail), and Browntop. These are used primarily as catch-crops for late-season hay production. Their yield potential is considerably less than Pearl millet or sudan.
A considerable acreage of corn in the state is devoted to silage production. The silage is generally higher in quality than sorghum silage, but the yield is usually less. Much of the corn for silage is produced under irrigation and utilized by dairy cattle and by beef cattle in feedlots. For information on production practices for corn, see Keys to Profitable Corn Production, available at the county Extension offices.
Several warm-season annual legumes are used to some extent for forage production. Legume forage is of excellent quality if harvested at the proper time with leaves retained. However, the yield is usually quite low when compared to summer annual grasses. The most important annual legumes are cowpeas and soybeans grown primarily for grazing and hay. Annual lespedeza is of some importance in certain areas, but is seldom grown in pure stands, but rather in association with warm-season grasses. Its principal use is for grazing and hay. Peanuts and guar are sometimes used for forage, but are seldom planted for this purpose alone.
Seedbeds should be well prepared, clean and firm. Apply fertilizer before planting as recommended by a soil test. High quality seed with good vigor is recommended. Seeding rates as shown in Table 1 should be adequate with good planting conditions and good seed. Plant when soil is warm and moisture is available for germination and good growth. Planting dates may be staggered, if moisture is favorable, to extend the production period. Crops for silage are usually planted in 36 to 42 inch rows to enable mechanical harvesting. Sudan varieties, hybrids, johnsongrass types and Pearl millet have been shown to produce about the same total forage per acre when planted in either rows, broadcast or close-drill. Close-drill or broadcast plantings produce more at the first harvest, but row plantings gives better distribution of production and a longer grazing season, especially when moisture is somewhat limited. Grazing animals trample down less forage in row plantings, also cultivation for weed control is possible. Irrigation and fertilizer applications often can be handled more easily in row plantings. Broadcast or close-drill plantings are usually suggested for hay production. Refer to Table 1 for additional establishment information.
Adequate plant food is essential for profitable production and quality. Obtain a soil test to determine fertilizer and limestone needs. For broadcast or close-drill plantings, the initial fertilizer application can be made to the seedbed just prior to planting and incorporated with the soil. For row plantings, fertilizers are normally banded or otherwise applied in the bed below the seed zone. In addition to the initial fertilizer applied prior to or at planting, nitrogen top-dressing or side-dressing is essential to stimulate new growth and quality after each harvest.
Irrigation is essential for forage production in many areas and used as a supplement in other areas of the state. Due to the cost of irrigation, one should use only well-adapted plants with good potential quality and high production capability. These should be amply fertilized and established at a high seeding rate. Summer annuals, such as sudan hybrids, are capable of high production of good-quality forage and give quick returns. High-yielding silage crops, such as the forage sorghum hybrids and com, also can be profitably produced under irrigation. Good grazing and harvesting management is necessary. Livestock utilizing the forage should be of high quality and capable of making the most profitable use of the quantity and quality of forage produced.
Adequate seedbed preparation and use of high-quality weed free seed, planted in a clean seedbed, is helpful in weed control. If planted at an adequate seeding rate and with good growing conditions, such as temperature, moisture and plant food, most annual forage plants will grow off rapidly ahead of many weeds. Broadcast or close-drill plantings will tend to retard the weeds. Chemical weed control is often desirable and profitable. For chemical weed control information for specific summer annual forage crops, see B-1029, Suggestions for Weed Control with Chemicals In Pasture and Forage Crops, available at the county Extension offices.
Summer annual forage crops are subject to insect attacks throughout the growing period. Type and severity of the insect problem will govern the control principles to be employed. Where forage growth is sufficient, it is usually more practical to make a forage harvest than to apply insecticides to stop an insect infestation. Since the forage produced is to be utilized by livestock, it is imperative that only those insecticides approved for such use be applied. Some of the more common insects that may attack summer annual forages are the fall armyworm, aphids, sorghum midge, grasshoppers and certain soil insects, such as wireworms, cutworms and corn rootworms. Information on the identification, life history and control of these and other insects is available at county Extension offices.
Certain diseases may attack summer annual forage species and reduce yields. Producers, following production practices to achieve maximum yields, should be concerned with such possible disease losses. The more common diseases that damage summer annuals, such as sorghums and sudan, are listed below with control principles. Disease reactions of many of the sorghum and sudan varieties and hybrids may be obtained from county agricultural agents. If diseases appear on these or other summer annual forage crops where identification is needed, specimens may be submitted through the county agricultural agent to a plant disease diagnostic laboratory. Seed rots and seedling disease are caused by several fungi and bacteria. Recommended seed treatment fungicides used by seedsmen usually give protection. Keep crop residue out of the seeding zone and use crop rotation. Downy mildew, caused by a fungus, has symptoms including stripping of leaves, sterility of systemically infected plants and down-like appearance on lower leaf surfaces. Rotate with non-related crops and use tolerant hybrids or varieties. Maize dwarf mosaic gives a typical chlorotic mottle on upper leaves and a red-leaf symptom on highly susceptible sorghums. Susceptible plants are stunted and produce less forage when infected. The virus over-winters in rhizomes of johnsongrass and is transmitted by insects. Control johnsongrass in and around the field. Use tolerant hybrids or varieties. Charcoal rot is recognized by a shredded-stalk interior near ground level, poor seed development and stalk lodging. Infection by the fungus is likely when drought stress occurs near heading. Other stalk rots may be damaging. Use practices to conserve moisture and to mature crop before usual drought periods.
HARVESTING AND UTILIZATION
Sudan varieties, sudan-johnsongrass types and Pearl millet should be 18-24 inches in height before grazing is initiated. Sudan hybrids should be allowed to reach 24-30 inches of growth. These plants grow and mature very rapidly. In the young, immature stage, they are highest in protein, minerals and digestibility. As they approach the boot stage and later, there is a decrease in protein and an increase in fiber, especially in the stalk, which renders it less acceptable to the animal and of less value. It is important, therefore, that initiation of grazing and harvesting not be delayed too long. After the leaves have been stripped, grazing animals should be removed. Shred the remaining stalks to a height of approximately 6 inches to stimulate new leaf development and then apply nitrogen fertilizer. If needed and available, water should be applied at this period. Resume grazing again when plants have reached approximately 24 inches. There is a need for a system of rotational grazing for best management. The boot stage is recommended when harvesting the above forages as hay, haylage or green-chop for most classes of livestock. Some adjustments can be made in the harvesting stage according to the quality needs of different classes of livestock. It should be remembered, however, that these plants mature rapidly and are harvested too often at an advanced stage when the quality is too low to give the desired animal performance.
Sudan hybrids, varieties and sudan-johnsongrass types have been linked to the horse disease “Cystitis Syndrome.” It has occurred only when horses have eaten the green forage; however, when cured as hay no problem has existed. Avoid grazing or feeding green-chop from these plants to horses. No such problems have been reported with other classes of livestock. Young plants and leaves of sorghum, sudan and johnsongrass contain a glucoside, which breaks down to release a toxic material known as prussic acid or hydrocyanic acid (HCN). Caution should be exercised in grazing plants that may contain appreciable quantities of the substance. Sorghum generally has a higher prussic acid potential than sudan. Silage and cured plants, such as hay, have not been a problem. Usually there is little danger of prussic acid poisoning in grazing the sudan hybrids and varieties. Allow plants to reach at least 18 inches in height before grazing is initiated. Avoid grazing the young growth, such as that which follows clipping, drought or frost. Frosted or frozen leaves should be avoided until they are dry.
Table 1. Summer annual forage plants
|Forage & Grain Sorghum|
|Cowpeas and soybeans|
Some popular summer forage options include sorghums, forage sorghum, sudangrass, millet, and some legumes. Options like crabgrass, dallisgrass, and johnsongrass, despite having reputations as weeds in the minds of some, may also become viable crops to grow in this situation.What is summer forage? ›
Summer forages can produce large amounts of feed from a smaller area. Options available include forage millet, forage sorghum, pennisetum, cowpea, lablab and brassicas. Soil temperature requirements. Different forage species vary in their minimum required soil temperature at planting.What is the best forage crop for cattle? ›
Some of the most well-known legumes in the cattle world are alfalfa and clover. These grow very well with many other grasses. And, because many legume varieties are quite dense, growing enough of them can help cut down on unwanted weeds while boosting soil integrity.What does forage production mean? ›
Forage crops are grown specifically for grazing by livestock or harvested to help make up seasonal shortfalls between feed demand and supply. They form a vital part of livestock production.What can I plant in summer for hay? ›
To improve forage production during this period of the year, plant a few acres of a summer annual grass such as pearl millet, crabgrass or sorghum x sudangrass hybrids. These forages have the potential to provide a high yielding, high quality pasture or hay field if they are utilized correctly.Do cows need hay in the summer? ›
Livestock often need to be fed hay during part of the winter or in the summer during droughts. Hay, pasture and supplemental feeds contain nutrients needed by both plants and livestock. The majority of these nutrients are excreted by animals in their manure and urine.What rate should I plant forage sorghum? ›
Conventional tillage requires a well-prepared seed bed for optimum establishment. Seed should be sown in 35 cm spaced rows at a rate of 15 kg/ha for sorghum hybrids and 10 kg/ha for Sudan types. Higher sowing rates can be used for irrigated crops.Do cows eat cowpeas? ›
Introduction. Cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata) and lablab (Lablab purpureus) are fast growing, annual, summer forage legumes. They are excellent quality crops for fattening both sheep and cattle, and are also regarded as good feed for milking cows.Is Brassica good for cattle? ›
Forage brassicas can provide quick and abundant feed, with high digestibility, energy, and protein. for lambs and 0.8–1.2 kg/hd /day for growing cattle are common. The relatively low cost of establishing forage brassicas also makes them an attractive option for quick feed.What is the best grass to feed beef cattle? ›
base grass or warm-season grass also benefits. and enhance animal performance. Any warm-season perennial grass (bermudagrass, bahiagrass, kleingrass or even native grasses) can be overseeded.
Alfalfa- It is probably the best high quality feed for livestock and as a cash crop but it requires deep, well drained soils and high fertility for high yields. While it can be used for grazing, it is best adapted for hay or silage.What is the fastest growing pasture grass? ›
Teff grass originates from Ethiopia. It is a warm-season annual grass that can be used for hay, silage, or pasture. It is fast growing, high yielding, and a forage of excellent quality.What is the difference between pasture and forage? ›
A pasture is an area of land on which grasses and legumes (forages) grow for animals to graze. Forage crops are plants cultivated for their vegetative portions in a pasture and are used either in fresh or preserved for feeding livestock such as cattle, sheep and goat.What are five common plants used for forage? ›
The major plant families that are used as forages are: grass (Poaceae previously known as Gramineae), legumes (Fabaceae previously known as Leguminosae), forbs, shrubs, brassicas, and some trees. Seventy-five percent of forages are grasses. Of the 10,000 grass species, about 40 are commonly used as forage.What are the 5 uses of forage crops? ›
- They are used as livestock feeds.
- They are used as cover crops which conserve soil moisture.
- They help in discouraging weed growth.
- Some are leguminous in nature which enriches soil nutrient.
- For prevention of erosion.
- Used as green manure.
- Used for roofing farmsteads.
- As bedding materials.
Hay -- The easiest millet to hay is Foxtail and Proso Millet. Pearl Millet stems are too coarse to allow for a good hay option. Japanese Millet stems are coarser than Foxtail and Proso Millets but thinner than Pearl Millet.How late can I plant sorghum? ›
(1) Do not plant later than July 1. *Good early season vigor ratings, adapted to early plantings at cooler temperatures.Is millet hay good for cattle? ›
Millets provide a good source of feed for cattle, and can decrease the need for stored feed in the summer months.Can cows eat too much grass? ›
Like humans, cattle can unknowingly overeat such grasses as alfalfa and clover and may end up with a serious condition impacting their digestive system — legume bloat.When should I stop feeding hay? ›
The moral of the story: keep feeding hay until pastures come on sufficiently, i.e. 6” to 8” in height. Supplemental hay and/or grain may be needed to meet the nutritional demands of grazing livestock in some situations.
Baleage typically is double the weight of dry hay, due to the high moisture content. But a 4 ft. by 4 ft. bale of baleage will still contain roughly 670 pounds of forage dry matter, so you can still feed one to your 18 cows.How many bags of sorghum make an acre? ›
We recommend a population on a drilled multiple harvest sorghum sudan of about 600-650,000 plants per acre. Quite often we think for a sorghum sudan a bag per acre, or 50 lbs., is fine to achieve that population.How many pounds per acre should you plant sorghum? ›
The optimum seeding rate for grain sorghum is about 10 pounds of seed per acre assuming a seed size of 14,000 seeds per pound and 70 percent emergence. Seed size varies from about 13,000 to 16,000 seeds/pound depending on the hybrid.How thick do you plant forage sorghum? ›
Research has shown the ideal depth for planting forage sorghum is 2-5cm. Planting the seed deeper than this can lead to problems such as slowing the rate of emergence which may result in an increased risk of insect and disease losses.Can humans eat forage peas? ›
In terms of human consumption, field pea can be cooked and served as a soup or eaten on their own. Additionally, a cup of field pea provides around 10-13g of prebiotic carbohydrates, which are essential for gut health and to combat obesity. Peas also provide other nutrients such as iron and zinc.Can humans eat cowpeas? ›
Cowpeas are grown mostly for their edible beans, although the leaves, green seeds and pods can also be consumed, meaning the cowpea can be used as a food source before the dried peas are harvested. Like other legumes, cowpeas are cooked to make them edible, usually by boiling.Can cows eat pea pods? ›
FIELD PEAS AS SUPPLEMENT: UNL research shows field peas are an acceptable supplement for pasture cattle when appropriately priced, and can replace corn at 20% of the dry matter without negative effects on performance or carcass characteristics.Can you plant brassicas two years in a row? ›
Tip: To avoid disease and pest problems, don't plant brassicas in the same plot for more than two years in a row.Is kale poisonous to sheep? ›
When feeding kale to sheep, it's good practice to ration it to a maximum of one pound per head per day, otherwise problems can arise. It may be that you have fed mature kale plants to your flock and unwittingly poisoned the most susceptible individuals.Can cows eat collard greens? ›
Collards are highly nutritious and digestible for livestock and are slow to bolt and flower when spring planted, making them a good choice for late spring and early summer grazing.
One of the best types of grass for cattle and other livestock is Bermuda grass. Bermuda grass, which is also a favorite of homeowners trying to grow a beautiful lawn, is relatively high in grass protein. Its crude protein levels can be as high as 16 percent, and it has a total digestible nutrient content of 55 percent.What is the best grass to feed cattle? ›
Alfalfa- It is probably the best high quality feed for livestock and as a cash crop but it requires deep, well drained soils and high fertility for high yields. While it can be used for grazing, it is best adapted for hay or silage.What is the fastest growing pasture grass? ›
Teff grass originates from Ethiopia. It is a warm-season annual grass that can be used for hay, silage, or pasture. It is fast growing, high yielding, and a forage of excellent quality.What is high energy forage? ›
Forages that are high in energy generally contain less cell wall, or neutral detergent fiber (NDF), and more sugars and other highly digestible components (NFC, or nonfiber carbohydrates).What grass hay has the highest protein? ›
Alfalfa, which is very high in protein and minerals, becomes slightly more palatable for livestock compared to other grass hays. In addition to crude protein, hay markets factor in other characteristics such as acid detergent fiber, neutral detergent fiber, relative feed value, and total digestible nutrients.Can cattle bloat on dry alfalfa hay? ›
However, as many a dairy farmer can attest to, cattle can still bloat on alfalfa hay, and long term frozen alfalfa should be considered bloat reduced, not bloat safe.What grass is good for chickens? ›
In a lot of climates, Ladino clover is considered the best, partly because it provides good nutrition (vitamins and protein, but few calories, just like grasses), and partly because its season is later than most grasses, giving lots of summer greenery when the grasses have faded.What is the best hay for horses? ›
Alfalfa, white clover, red clover and birdsfoot trefoil are common types of legumes, with alfalfa being the most popular choice. Benefits: Legumes are higher in protein and calcium than grass hay, and may also provide more energy and a higher level of total digestible nutrients, such as vitamin A.What's the best grass seed for horses? ›
- Endophyte-free tall fescue.
- Perennial ryegrass.
- Kentucky bluegrass.
Timothy hay is recommended by many experts due to its ease on various animal's digestive system as well as promotion of bowel regularity. Additionally, there have been scientific studies done that show Timothy hay is an ideal feed for pregnant or lactating cows.
What kind of grass is bad for horses? Don't let your horses eat any of the following: sorghum, sudangrass, johnsongrass, or any varieties of these types. Horses can get sick from eating this grass. That's why horse owners must know what the grass is in their pastures.Can you seed a pasture with horses on it? ›
Do not attempt to reseed the entire pasture acreage at one time. Horses will need to be removed from seeded areas until the plants become adequately established to withstand grazing. Seedings made in late summer will usually be ready for grazing the following May.Which grass grows fastest for cattle? ›
Hybrid Sorghum Sudan grass is a fast-growing cover crop with an extensive root system that thrives in the heat of summer. It excels at suppressing weeds. Its funny name comes from the fact that it is a hybrid, a cross between sorghums grown for forage and a type of grass called sudan grass or sudangrass.Can grass fed beef eat alfalfa? ›
Alfalfa is considered the king of forages, and is grown in a monoculture. More and more alfalfa is being planted that is glyphosate tolerant (GMO) Alfalfa is considered the staple forage for many grass fed beef producers.How long does it take to finish cattle on grass? ›
Finishing animals on grass is a lengthier process than grain-finishing, often requiring between 24 and 30 months. By comparison, steers can be finished on grain in three to five months depending on how old the calves are when the graining process begins.Can you feed alfalfa to a cow? ›
Alfalfa is typically the cheapest feed supplement in late summer and early fall when grazing cows in their mid-trimester of pregnancy on low quality forages. During most years, excellent quality alfalfa hay is locally abundant and is often underutilized as a supplement in the beef cow industry.