The 2019 growing season has been challenging to say the least, especially when it came to planting and harvesting forages for winter feeding. The wet conditions didn’t allow for entry into fields on time or even for planting crops in some fields. But there are fall-forage options available to plant to extend winter and early-spring feed supply. Some of those options include late-planted oats, cereal rye, corn stalks, immature corn and other various cover crops.
Feed late-planted oats, cereal rye
Late-planted oats usually need to be planted by mid-August in order to be harvested or grazed in the late fall. In a study at the Dairy Forage Research Center and the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Marshfield Agricultural Research Station in 2006 and 2007 oats were planted at 3 bushels per acre and 40 to 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre.
For greater yield it's recommended to use mid-maturity oat varieties. Oats will head in the fall. But they will not pollinate like spring-planted oats. Oats won't survive the winter. But oats typically won't be injured by frost until temperatures reach 20 degrees Fahrenheit or less.
Fall-planted oats can be mechanically harvested for silage. They may accumulate dry matter because they stand to 30 percent dry matter. For gestating beef cows, waiting to harvest until the dough stage will gain slightly more yield. Although crude-protein values will be less at 11 percent to 13 percent crude protein. One can also graze late-planted oats usually beginning in the final week of September if planted by early August.
The UW-Madison Marshfield Agricultural Research Station allocated one day’s forage needs with electric wire to avoid trampling and wasting of feed. The forage may have too great of nutrition levels for mom cows who just had their calves. So they may need to be limited on the time they graze and then moved to a lesser-quality grass to avoid becoming 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. It could be grazed one or two 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 it can be grazed in the spring. Rye will produce dry-matter yields of 2 to 3 tons per acre with a range from 1 to 4 tons. It's recommended to plant at a seeding rate of 90 to 100 pounds per acre for grazing or forage.
There are many fall-forage options available. It's important to remember to always test forages. That way producers know what nutrient values they have to work with. They can then create the most optimal and cost-effective ration.