Summer Annual Forage Grasses for Extra Pasture

Beef Cattle September 23, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF

 


Which summer annual forage grass should you plant for summer pasture? This can be confusing because there are five different types of summer annual forage grasses: sudangrass, sorghum sudan hybrids, forage sorghum (which we often call cane or sorgo), foxtail millet, and pearl millet. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses.

When you need extra pasture, though, the two best choices clearly are sudangrass or pearl millet. Both grasses are leafy, they regrow rapidly after grazing, and they contain less danger from prussic acid poisoning than other annual grasses.

Sudangrass can be planted quite a bit earlier than pearl millet. So it also is ready for summer grazing sooner. You can plant sudangrass as soon as soil temperatures remain above 60 degrees, or around two weeks after corn planting begins. Pearl millet needs soil temperatures above 70 degrees or growth gets stunted, so wait until June to plant.

With moisture, these grasses pop up ready to graze in five to six weeks. And once they get started, they can grow almost too fast, so it often is best to stagger three or four plantings that are ten to 14 days apart to set up a natural grazing rotation. For example, you could plant the first two areas to sudangrass early and then seed pearl millet in the last two. Then begin grazing when each area gets about knee high and rotate every seven to ten days.

So, if drought has you worried, use sudangrass or pearl millet. It is your best chance for extra summer grazing.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.