Other feeds and forage - Producer Questions

Other feeds & forage: soybeans, turnips, foxtail millet, wheat and more

(Producer Questions prior to 2009)

Can I feed raw soybeans to beef cows?

Following are guidelines for feeding raw soybeans to cattle.

  1. Do not feed soybeans at levels above 4 or 5 lbs. per head per day; this may amount to about 20 percent of the ration. Introduce the soybeans first at 10 percent, before increasing it further. Beans can be substituted for the protein coming from the supplement depending on the supplement protein content. Whole beans will be 35 to 40% crude protein.
  2. During hot weather, roll or crack soybeans once or twice weekly in preparation for the ration, otherwise the soybeans may become rancid. In cold weather this is no problem. Mature soybeans can be fed whole in feedlot diets, while small immature beans may need to be rolled to insure optimum utilization.
  3. Do not include urea in rations with raw beans.
  4. If excessive levels of beans are fed, cattle may scour.
  5. Mold should not present any problems for cattle, however if mold is excessive a test for aflatoxin is recommended.
  6. Cooking (roasting) or extruding the beans will potentially improve the value of soy protein. However, experimental results have not produced consistent improvements. If fed above 20% of the ration, roasting should be considered.

What could I plant for forage following irrigated winter wheat that I could graze starting Sept. 1st to Sept. 15th? Land is under a center pivot. Need grazing from early Sept. until cornstalks are available, usually middle to late October. A bonus would be able to graze for 2 weeks in April until time to plant back to corn.

There are a couple of forage options after wheat.

One that provides excellent fall grazing (mid-September to mid-November) is a mixture of oats and turnips. These can be planted in the last half of July and will reach 20 to 30 inches in height by mid-September. They will continue growth well into October. They will also tolerate fairly cold temperatures (15 to 20 degrees) in late fall before they freeze down. They will not overwinter though, and provide any spring grazing.

Another option is to plant a sorghum-sudan grass hybrid as soon as possible after wheat harvest. Planted at this time; this warm season annual will have adequate time to produce a fair amount of forage, and may reach 4 to 5 feet in height. However, it will freeze down with the first good frost. Even after freezing though, the quality of the stock-piled forage will be fairly good into October. Frosts on warm-season annual can cause problems though, through the accumulation of nitrates or prussic acid found in new shoots that develop.

How long can you graze wheat for cow feed and not cause major damage to the wheat crop grain yield?

The developing grain head on all small grains (winter wheat, rye, triticale, barley) is located just above the highest stem node of the plant. Grain yield is jeopardized when this structure elongates and elevates to a height that is susceptible to being removed by grazing livestock. Generally, this occurs when the growth stage we call 'jointing' begins to occur. This usually happens in mid-April; earlier in southern Nebraska and later in northern Nebraska. Maintaining a 2 to 3 inch minimum stubble helps.

Grazing does tend to slightly delay the onset of jointing. Thus, a good way to be most safe from grain yield reduction is to protect a small area of the field from grazing and observe ungrazed plants for the onset of jointing. If animals then are removed from the small grain pasture, little grain yield reduction will have occurred due to grazing removal of grain heads. Both irrigated and dryland fields respond similarly.

If the primary grain head is removed, plants often produce new tillers that can form grain but yield usually is reduced and grain matures a little later.

Spring small grains, like oats, behave the same way but will not elevate their seed heads until about one month later than winter small grain.

After harvesting wheat under a pivot, what is the best to plant for winter cow feed?

Two summer annual forage options after wheat harvest include either foxtail millet or a sorghum-sudangrass hybrid. These should be planted as soon as possible after wheat harvest to capitalize on the remaining growing season. Assuming a July 15 planting date would result in about 60 or more days of good growing conditions and respectable hay yields. Hay yield will be lower if the planting date passes into late July or early August. Either foxtail millet or sorghum-sudangrass hybrids will make good hay. Foxtail millet will have finer stems than a sorghum-sudangrass hybrid and will dry quicker for baling. Sorghum-sudangrass hybrids will likely have an advantage in tons of hay produced. Swathing these forages in mid to late September prior to a killing frost would preserve quality and the forage could then be grazed in the windrow throughout the fall and winter. The Windrow Grazing NebGuide G1616 (PDF version 721KB) provides more information.

If you are planting after early August, then you may want to consider planting oats or a combination of oats and turnips for grazing. Oats will continue to grow until temperatures get down in the low 20's. Oats planted in early August with adequate fertilizer and moisture can accumulate 1.5 to 2.5 tons of high quality feed per acre by mid to late October.

Has there been any research on sainfoin forage in NE?

Yes, I am currently evaluating sainfoin under both dryland and irrigated conditions here at the West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte. In the trials, it is being compared against alfalfa. Test plots were established this past spring with full data collection planned for next season. Initial observations show quicker establishment and seeding year production for alfalfa compared to sainfoin. In my previous experience with sainfoin in other states, I have also observed great production with alfalfa. Spring growth and production of sainfoin is very good, but it generally did not grow very rapidly during the summer. An advantage of sainfoin is that it is a non-bloating legume; however, a negative point is that compared to alfalfa, it does not fix as much nitrogen into the soil.