Planting Guidelines for Annual Forages
Annual forages are classified into three types:
- Cool-season, winter sensitive (spring varieties)
- Cool-season, winter hardy (winter varieties)
- Warm-season, summer annuals
Annual forages can provide rapid growth and high production with limited amounts of moisture as long as the moisture is timely. Under irrigation, annual forages provide more reliable forage production.
Annual forages offer great flexibility for managing forage supplies. They can be used to fill forage production gaps or serve as a primary forage source for grazing in spring through winter with multiple, staggered plantings of different types of annuals. Also, annual forages can be used between crop rotations as an annual forage double-crop.
Annual forage species should be selected based on the seasonal forage needs and the time of planting. The earliest spring grazing (beginning in April) can be achieved with fall planting of a winter cool-season species, such as cereal rye or triticale. Later spring grazing (beginning in May) can be gained through planting winter-sensitive cool-season species like oats in mid-March. Warm-season species, such as sudangrass, can be planted in late spring for summer grazing (beginning in July). Warm-season species also can be stockpiled for winter grazing. Oats planted in late summer produce high quality forage for late fall and early winter grazing.
|Annual Forage||Forage Type 1||Seeding Rate lb/ac 2||Seeding Depth, inch||Planting Date||Winter Hardiness||Grazing value 3|
|Fall planting (April-June grazing)|
|cereal rye||CG||70||1.5||8/1-11/1||to -30o F||3|
|triticale, winter||CG||70||1||8/1-11/1||to -20o F||3|
|wheat, winter||CG||70||1.25||8/15-10/15||to -20o F||3|
|barley, winter||CG||80||1.25||8/15-10/15||to -5o F||3|
|pea, winter||CL||45||2.25||7/15-10/15||to -10o F||2|
|vetch, hairy||CL||20||1||8/1-9/15||to -20o F||2|
|Spring planting (May-July grazing)|
|ryegrass, annual||CG||20||0.5||3/15-5/15||to 0o F||2|
|pea, spring field||CL||55||2.25||3/15-4/15||No||2|
|pea, spring forage||CL||40||2.25||3/15-4/15||No||2|
|hybrid grazing turnip||Br||8||0.5||3/15-5/10||No||2|
|Late spring/early summer planting (July-Sept grazing)|
|millet, foxtail (German)||WG||15||0.5||5/15-8/1||No||2|
|Late summer planting (Sept-Jan grazing)|
|ryegrass, annual||CG||20||0.5||8/1-9/1||to 0o F||4|
|turnip, Purple top||Br||5||0.5||7/15-8/20||No||4|
|hybrid grazing turnip||Br||8||0.5||7/15-8/20||No||3|
|pea, spring field||CL||55||2.25||7/15-8/15||No||2|
|pea, spring forage||CL||45||2.25||7/15-8/15||No||2|
1Br [brassicas], CG [cool-season grass], CL [cool-season legume], WG [warm-season grass], WL [warm-season (summer) legume]. Legumes (CL or WL) and brassicas (Br) should not be planted in monocultures for grazing; it is necessary that they are in a mixture with a compatible grass species.
2 For mixtures, target the percent of full seeding rate of the species to add to 100 to 150%. For example, if cereal rye and hairy vetch are planted in a mixture, the seeding rate of 50 lbs rye (50/65 = 77%) with 9 lb vetch (9/20 = 45%) would be 122%.
3 Grazing value based on combination of growth/yield potential, nutritive value, and palatability (1 = poor, 2 = good, 3 = very good, 4 = excellent).
Resources for Annual Forage Management
Mary Drewnoski, Nebraska Extension Beef Systems Specialist
Daren Redfearn, Nebraska Extension Forage and Crop Residue Specialist
University of Nebraska-Lincoln