October 17, 2018

Utilizing cool-season annual grasses

By Jimmy Driggers County extension agent
This article was published November 27, 2017 at 4:00 a.m.

Cool season annual grasses provide high-quality forage at a time that warm season forages are dormant, low in crude protein and high in fiber. Although tall fescue grows at the same time of year as most of our small grains, forage intake and animal performance of tall fescue is much lower than with annuals because of the toxicity of tall fescue in most of the acreage in Arkansas (unless novel endophyte tall fescue has been planted!). Small grains, such as rye (cereal rye not annual ryegrass) and wheat grow well in the fall and early winter, and are extremely productive in the spring. Annual ryegrass is not as productive in the fall and winter, but is also extremely productive in the spring. Oats are very productive, but are not cold tolerant and can have stand losses due to freeze damage most years in northern Arkansas and some years in southern Arkansas. Cool season annuals provide excellent forage for growing stocker calves and developing replacement heifers and can be an excellent supplement for mature cows by limit grazing a few hours a day or for several hours on alternating days.

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