The good spring and early summer moisture we have received in Nebraska along with continued strong forage prices for grazing is encouraging producers to consider what annual forages could be planted into prevent plant acres or wheat stubble to produce fall forage. While summer annuals are a good option through July, spring annual forages such as oats, spring triticale and barley planted in late July through the middle of August can provide high quality feed. This forage can be harvested, direct grazed, or windrow grazed from October on into the fall and winter.
Spring annuals with adequate fertility, moisture and growing days can accumulate 1.5 to 4 tons of forage per acre when planted in late July to the middle of August. The earlier the planting date, the more total forage is likely to be produced. Spring annuals are somewhat cold tolerant, standing light frosts and temperatures down into the upper 20’s before growth ceases.
Research at the High Plains Ag Lab at Sidney, has shown that late summer planted oats can maintain quality amazingly well through the winter. Data from standing oats planted in late July and early August of 2012 harvested and analyzed in early March of 2013 showed oats at 13% crude protein with total digestible nutrients (TDN) values in the mid 60’s. This is better quality than many types of hay often being fed at this time of year! For more information on using annual forages after irrigated wheat see the UNL NebGuide “Utilizing Annual Forages with Limited Irrigation for Beef Cattle During and Following Drought” (http://go.unl.edu/mrvc). A webinar titled “Forage Production Following Irrigated Wheat” (http://go.unl.edu/6ttv) highlights research in this area as well as options for harvesting and utilizing forages. Usually spring annuals are planted in March or April as a summer forage source. However, these spring annuals when planted in the middle of summer can also provide high quality feed for the fall and winter.