The following is an excerpt that was included in the August Newsletter, Beef News in Durham, distributed by the Durham Cattlemen’s Association.

Finding Extra Feed

Jack Kyle (OMAFRA), Grazier Specialist 705-324-5855

Finding extra forage is going to be a challenge for the coming months.  Some of the options that might have been available in June or early July are not there now as the growing season advances.

Sorghum-Sudan, and sorghum are warm season grasses that can be productive but they need to be planted in June or very early July to achieve significant growth. These species have no frost tolerance so the first frost of fall will be the end of their growth.  The other comment that I would add is the sorghums have reasonably good drought tolerance once they are well established but you need reasonable moisture to get the root system developed enough to get into moist soil.

Capturing sunlight is the key to getting plant growth — any sunlight that falls on bare soil is lost.  Sunlight drives the photosynthesis process.  We want the sunlight to land on green growing leaves (thus one of the reasons for me always stressing to not graze below 3-4 inches).  If the sun hits bare soil, it increases soil temperature and soil evaporation – both negative factors for any plant growth but does not get used for photosynthesis.

Oats are likely the most reliable and easiest crop to plant during early to mid August for extra fall forage.  The oats can be grazed or wrapped as baleage; they keep growing into the fall until there is a hard frost.  I’m not convinced that peas add very much to the quality or quantity of forage especially in the summer seeding situation and they tend to be expensive.  I would have more confidence putting some of that money into more oats.

Winter cereals are another option but they are not going to give much fall feed — their strength is early forage next spring.  Winter rye or winter triticale are the two to consider.

If a producer is looking for early spring grazing then I would go with fall rye or possibly winter triticale.  You will not get much fall forage but these crops start growing early in the spring and need to be grazed early or harvested for stored forage in time for either corn silage or soybeans to be planted.

Corn silage is the one possibility that could be available for many producers — corn that is not going to make grain could be taken as silage.  Corn can also be effectively grazed using a strip grazing system saving harvest costs.  Corn stover is a readily available forage source that can be utilized either by grazing or baling the stalks.  One acre of corn stover will provide about 1 month of feed for a non-lactating beef cow.

Straw can also be effectively utilized in a beef cow ration to extend other forages and feeds.  Consider the use of by-product feeds such as corn distillers, corn gluten or others,.  The cow can make effective use of many different feed sources as long as the ration in nutritionally balanced.  Feed testing and ration balancing are cost effective tools to make good use of the different feeds that can be utilized in a cow ration.

OMAFRA Specialists are updating and adding to the “Adverse Weather File” posted at on a regular basis (some of the more noteworthy links are on the last page of this document).

The website has a good collection of information on Drought on Pastures and Rangelands at:$foragebeef/frgebeef.nsf/all/frg77

The home page should be bookmarked on every beef producer’s computer:


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