North Dakota State University beef specialist Greg Lardy suggests annual forages can be a valuable feedstuff for filling in grazing gaps.
Lardy says if you have tillable acres, there is still time to make use of annual forages for your grazing plan. In cases of drought, you can use these versatile forages to make up for lost production in your native or seeded pastures.
Annual forages can be broken down into cool and warm season species. Depending on growing conditions, soil types and objectives, either category of forage may be acceptable in your grazing or forage production program.
Cool season species include crops such as oats, barley, wheat, rye, triticale and other small grains. These crops respond well to cooler growing conditions. They can be used for grazing or hay production. Almost all of these forages will accumulate nitrate under stress conditions. Therefore, caution should be exercised if you have drought stressed small grains.
Warm season annual forages include pearl and foxtail millets, sudan grass, sorghum-sudan hybrids and corn. As the category name implies, warm season forages typically are better suited for warmer weather. Prussic acid poisoning can be a problem with sudan grass and some sorghum-sudan hybrids. Some of these forages are better suited for mechanical harvesting (corn silage) as opposed to grazing.
Check with your local Extension office or agronomy center for recommendations on which annual forages are best suited for your area, soil type and growing conditions. Finding the ideal annual for your system has the potential to complement existing forage resources, fill in the gaps in forage production and improve productivity in your grazing operation.