The 2019 growing season has been challenging to say the least when it came to planting and harvesting forages for winter feeding. The wet conditions didn’t allow for getting into the fields on time or even getting crops like corn planted at all in some fields. However, there are fall forage options available to plant to extend your winter and early spring feed supply. Some of these options include late planted oats, cereal rye, corn stalks, immature corn, and other various cover crops. This post will go more in depth on feeding late planted oats and cereal rye.
Late planted oats usually need to be planted by mid-August in order to be able to harvest or be able to graze late fall. In a study at the Dairy Forage Research Center and UW Marshfield Station in 2006-2007 oats were planted at 3 bushels/acre and 40-60 lbs. nitrogen/acre. For higher yield it is recommended to use md-maturity oat varieties. Oats will head in the fall, but will not pollinate like spring planted oats. Oats will not survive the winter; however, oats will typically not get injured by frost until 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Fall planted oats can be mechanically harvested for silage and they may accumulate dry matter as they stand to 30% dry matter. For gestating beef cows waiting to harvest until the dough stage will gain slightly more yield, although crude protein (CP) values will be less (11-13% CP). One can also graze late planted oats usually beginning in the last week of September if planted by early August. UW Marshfield Station allocated one day’s forage needs with electric wire to avoid trampling and wasting of feed. The forage may be too high of nutrition levels for momma cows who just had their calves, so they may need to be limited on the time they graze and then moved to a lower quality grass to avoid getting over conditioned.
Planting Rye in the fall can allow for grazing as well as mechanical harvest the following spring. Rye planted in August could be 6 inches tall by October and it could be grazed 1 or 2 times if managed grazing is utilized. If rye is planted after corn silage or soybean harvest it may not be able to be grazed in the fall, but can be grazed in the spring. Rye will produce dry matter yields of 2-3 tons per acre with a range from 1-4 tons. It is recommended to plant at a seeding rate of 90-100 lbs./acre for grazing or forage.
There are many fall forage options available and it is important to remember to always test your forages so you know what nutrient values you have to work and to create the most optimal and cost-effective ration. For more information about the beef industry, visit the WI Beef Information Center at fyi.extension.wisc.edu/wbic or contact your local extension office.
References for this article include: Barnett, K. 2006. Fertilizer management of pastures. Graziers Notebook. Vol 2: No1. University of Wisconsin Madison Division of Extension.
Coblentz, W., and M. Bertram. 2012. Fall grown oat forages: cultivars, planting dates, and expected yields. Focus on forage fact sheet. Vol 14: No. 3. University of Wisconsin Madison Division of Extension.
Coblentz, W., N Esser, G. Brink, P. Hoffman, and M. Bertram. 2013. Grazing management for fall-grown oats. Focus on forage fact sheet. Vol 15: No. 3. University of Wisconsin Madison Division of Extension.
Cuomo, Greg. Nitrogen management for grass pastures. University of Minnesota/West Central Research and Outreach Center.
Miller, Z., M. Bertram, and P. Hoffman. 2010. Fall forage rye for dairy heifers and dry cows. Vol 12: No. 4. Focus on forage fact sheet. University of Wisconsin Madison Division of Extension.
Min, D.H. 2012. Planting winter rye to extend the grazing season. Michigan State University Extension.
Written by: Ashley Olson, Steve Okenok, and Jamie Pfaff, UW Madison- Division of Extension Agriculture Educators in Vernon, Trempealeau, Jackson Counties