University of Missouri Extension agronomist Dhruba Dhakal recently offered some alternative forage option advice to producers who have been impacted by the widespread drought conditions across Missouri.
As a result of the drought, there have been hay and forage shortages. Now, Dhakal is providing some emergency forage options to feed beef cattle during fall, winter, and spring. He says that if fescue stands are still strong, stockpiling tall fescue is one of the easiest options for fall and winter grazing.
“If plants are still alive with more than 75 percent fescue left, fertilize with 40-50 pounds of nitrogen per acre in September and close the gates,” he says. “Let grass grow until November before grazing. An application of urea with nitrogen stabilizer (Agrotain, for example) with rainfall received within 14 days helps to incorporate it and reduce volatilization. Ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate are less prone to volatilization loss compared to urea. Rotational grazing using paddocks is a better option to increase carrying capacity of land as well as maintaining pasture health.”
Dhakal notes that pastures with poor fescue stands or no fall growth potential may be planted with winter annuals if there is still good soil moisture. Planting brassicas, such as turnip and radish, is another option for feeding cattle during the fall.
“Turnip is an easy and quick establishment but has little regrowth potential. Bloat, sulfur and nitrate toxicity, and milk flavoring might occur at times,” Dhakal says.
Finally, Dhakal recommends planting spring oats from late winter to early spring. They can be used as hay and silage crop to feed cattle.