Much of Southeast Kansas experienced drought through the late summer and fall months of 2022. This has affected pasture health, forage yields, and hay prices, causing some producers to worry if they will have enough forage to maintain their herd numbers. In this article we will lay out a few forage options that producers may not be utilizing.
Many tall fescue pastures in SEK went into dormancy early last summer, and never seemed to come out, leaving producers to worry if the fescue is dead. While it is difficult to tell how much will recover, we know that stand health will be poor this spring. In some cases, spring oats can be drilled into fescue stands to provide additional forage. Using low seeding rates and a no-till drill, oats make a great companion crop allowing the fescue to rest.
Winter wheat can be used as a dual-purpose crop, where producers graze the stand early in the spring, and then pull cattle off to have a harvestable wheat crop. Winter wheat can be grazed until the first hallow stem stage without impacting yield potential. Research has shown a 0% yield impact from grazing prior to the first hallow stem stage, and then a 2% yield loss each day the wheat is grazed after the first hallow stem stage. The first hallow stem stage can be identified by splitting the main tiller on the wheat plant and finding the developing wheat head. The first hallow stem stage begins when the developing wheat head is approximately 1.5 centimeters above ground, roughly the diameter of a dime.