Burke – Jenkins Ag News

“It might rain. What should I do?”

With such a dry fall planting season we have continually had the question of whether or not to plant winter grazing. Dr. Hancock just sent the following article addressing the issue. Our forecast may not be as favorable as the one that he mentions, but, we may get some rain. His article seems to promote ryegrass specifically. Many of our questions have been about late planted rye. Keep in mind as you read Dr. Hancock’s article that he is presenting “the facts”. Ryegrass gives you the best option for the most tons of forage produced at this point (in a typical growing season). Rye can still be planted but the yields may not be as good as we would like. Hope this is beneficial with your decision making!

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For parts of Georgia and the Southeast, the forecast is as favorable as we’ve seen in a long time. Plus, the forecasted amount of rain is significant. This has resulted in a number of livestock producers asking about making late plantings of winter annuals for forage.  I recently updated an older factsheet that I had wrote in 2007 with Dr. Don Ball, now Professor Emeritus at Auburn University. This factsheet, titled Late Plantings of Winter Annual Forages, provides more details on what one should consider when thinking about a late planting of winter annuals. Here’s a summary of the most pertinent parts to today’s considerations: Planting winter annuals late should be considered VERY RISKY and every consideration to alternatively feeding low-price commodities and by-products (corn gluten, soy hulls, wheat mids, etc.) should be evaluated from an economic standpoint.  When making a late planting of winter annuals, it is important to remember that one should consider not only the cost of seed, but also fertilizer, fuel, labor, and other costs, as well as the risk involved.  If planting in late fall and early winter, focus on planting annual ryegrass. Annual ryegrass is fairly cold tolerant in the Deep South, and ryegrass seed is relatively inexpensive. Still, if a producer is going to try ryegrass in a planting in late fall or early winter, it makes sense to plant a variety known to have the potential to make early growth. Regardless, one should remember that the late planted crop is at significant risk of winter injury and the grass plants will not have a chance to reach their tillering potential. Certainly, productivity of these forages will be greatly reduced from normal expected yields. It is impossible to predict how much yield reduction will occur, but a good manager that receives favorable weather MAY produce 2000-4000 lbs of dry matter per acre if planting in late fall or early winter with a good ryegrass variety.  A good rain would do us all good. But, a good rain will not end this drought. We are by no means “out of the woods.” This may be one’s best shot at getting decent winter annual forage growth started, but one should count the costs. If you can afford to take the risk and it is your best option, go for it. But, if you are literally betting the farm on a late winter planting, don’t. The risk is too great! A more expensive alternative that has less risk would be a far better choice.  For more information on how to manage during this drought, visit the drought management page on georgiaforages.com, which includes management advice, links to hay directories, and much more.