Pastures: Annual Pastures
Excerpt from Publication 19, Pasture Production, Order this publication
Table of Contents
Annual crops can be part of a planned pasture program or an emergency remedy in years when the regular pastures have been winterkilled or are suffering from drought. Table 1-2, Annual Forages Fill the Pasture Season, shows the role that annuals can play in filling the pasture season. While annual crops offer flexibility in pasture programs, their advantages must be weighed against the cost of reseeding each year. For supplementing pastures in the summertime, consider grazing hay aftermath (second growth) or feeding hay
*oats can be seeded throughout the season to provide grazing 6 weeks
Cereals are annual grasses and are a good choice when extra pasture is
needed quickly. Any of the cereals, when grazed early enough (when vegetative),
will show some regrowth. In the vegetative stage they are a good source
of protein but have very low dry matter and fibre content. Provide dry
hay as animals cannot obtain enough energy or fibre from grazing young
cereals alone. If you want to avoid having to supplement with hay, delay
grazing until the cereals have formed stems.
Oats are ready to be pastured 6-8 weeks after being seeded, and can be
seeded anytime from spring to fall. Early spring seedings can be cut for
hay and the aftermath grazed until fall. Seed at 80-100 kg/ha.
Do not allow animals to graze young forage plants. Remove them from the field as soon as they have grazed off the oats.
Fall rye is a versatile pasture crop. It can be grazed in the fall and,
if seeded before mid-August, the following spring as well. The fall growth
can be grazed until snow cover is too deep for the animals to dig through.
If seeded on land that dries quickly, fall rye can provide very early
spring pasture. The land must be firm enough in the spring to carry the
Winter triticale is a cross between wheat and rye that provides early spring grazing. It can be grown on a variety of soil types, but like fall rye, should not be sown on poorly drained soils. Seed early enough in the fall to provide time for the crop to establish itself. The date of seeding differs with location. Refer to OMAF Publication 811, Agronomy Guide for Field Crops and use the seeding dates suggested for winter wheat. Seed winter triticale at a rate to of 100-125 kg/ha. In the spring, as the triticale is starting to turn green, fertilize with 80 kg of nitrogen/ ha.
Annual ryegrasses produce top quality forage. There are 2 types of annual
ryegrass available - Italian and Westerwold. The Italian type is really
a biennial, but so seldom survives the winter that it is regarded as an
annual. Italian ryegrasses are leafy, short growing (up to 40 cm) and
in the seeding year do not come into head. These factors make Italian
ryegrass an ideal pasture crop but an extremely difficult one to mechanically
Westerwold annual ryegrasses grow taller (40-80 cm), have more stems
and will head out if left to mature. Graze or cut Westerwold ryegrasses
before they head out to maintain high productivity and feed quality.
Sorghum-sudan grass hybrids can be used for pasture as well as for stored feed. When pastured, start grazing after the plants have reached a minimum height of 75 cm. This will maintain productivity and eliminate the danger of prussic acid poisoning. All members of the sorghum family contain dhurrin, a glucocide that breaks down to release prussic acid poisoning (also called hydrocyanic acid). Normally the amount is not enough to cause problems. However young plants, plants suffering from drought, or plants that have been frosted, contain a much higher level of prussic acid than normal. Do not graze when it is recovering from drought stress. Wait until the frosted plants have dried out completely.
Never allow horses to graze sorghum-sudan grass hybrids. Horses may develop cystitis, a potentially fatal urinary tract infection. Cystitis looks like colic, with blood in the urine.
Once they have reached a height of 90 cm, sorghum-sudan grasses grow
very rapidly. Good management is necessary to keep ahead of the growth.
Successive plantings, strip grazing, or mechanical harvesting may be required
to avoid oversupplies of overly mature forage. Strip grazing is the best
approach to pasture management, as it reduces trampling losses.
Forage brassicas can provide good pastures from September to December.
Forage rape, kale and stubble turnips are the 3 brassicas most commonly
used for pasture. They produce up to 12 t/ha of high quality dry matter
for fall grazing. Forage rape and kale are preferred by cattle and sheep.
Strip graze brassicas to avoid excessive wastage. Brassicas have a high moisture content, 85%-89%. To ensure enough fibre in their diet, either feed your animals hay or give them access to permanent grass/legume pastures.
If not well managed, all of the brassicas can cause animal health problems. Refer to Chapter 7, Animal Health Disorders.
Kale, also called marrow stem kale, has a short (75 cm- 1.5 m) upright
growth habit with highly digestible leaves and stems. It is frost-hardy
and will continue to provide fresh forage after snowfall. Its crude protein
level (on a dry matter basis) ranges from 19% in September to 15% in late
Two main types of forage rape are used for pasture. The broadleaf or
giant types are leafy and upright growing and are best pastured by cattle
or sheep. Dwarf types are shorter and branching, and may be used for fattening
lambs. Do not confuse forage rape with oilseed rape or canola.
Rape poisoning can occur if stunted, low growing, purple
coloured plants are pastured.
These crops occur more frequently in wet years, on poorly drained land and when inadequate fertilizer is used. Early frost may aggravate this condition on wet, poorly drained fields.
Cattle can bloat on rape.
When cattle are grazing rape, always have dry feed present to prevent cattle from eating large quantities of rape at any one time. Make sure cattle are full before putting them out to graze rape the first time.
Forage turnips, also called stubble turnips, fall turnips, white turnips,
or Dutch turnips, produce a thick mass of bushy tops and large white roots.
The animals will first graze the tops off the turnips and then graze the
area a second time, feeding on the roots. The roots are high enough out
of the ground that animals find them easy to get a hold of. Strip grazing
is recommended to make best use of this crop. Plant turnips the same way
as rape and fertilize with 100 kg nitrogen/ha. Despite the fact that animals
can use both roots and tops, turnips are still lower yielding than rape
or kale crops.
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