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July 17, 2013
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Tips from UNL Experts: Small-grain silage and AUMs

Small grain silage may be a good option to fill a forage shortage this summer.

With hay and feed supplies being short this spring and the prospect for forage production from range and pasture this summer being below average, small grain silage may be a good option this year.

Small grain silage from cereal rye, triticale, barley, wheat and oats can provide a high quality forage source.

The following are some advantages of harvesting small grain for silage in a year like 2013.

1. Small grain silage provides a potentially high quality harvested forage resource in late spring and early summer. This may be especially valuable with carry over forage being in such short supply and many cow-calf producers needing to feed cows due to ongoing drought conditions.

2. A grain crop or annual forage can quickly be planted back into the ground — small grain silage is harvested from providing a longer growing season with a second crop.

3. There is reduced risk of losing the crop to hail or other weather related events when it is harvested as silage.

4. The current price relationship comparing the value of harvesting the crop for grain and straw or for silage under today’s market conditions may make silage an attractive option. This is especially true for diversified crop/cattle operations where feed is in short supply.

Dr. Bruce Anderson is a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension forage specialist, who has recently recorded a webinar titled “Making Small Grain Silage,” highlighting things producers should remember when harvesting and storing small grain silage. Go to

Questions from Producers

Q. I hear people talk about using Animal Unit Month calculations in their management of range and pasture. What is an AUM? How is it used in pasture and range management?

A. An AUM is an Animal Unit Month.

An animal unit month is a method used to give an estimate of how much forage is being eaten by a defined animal in a month.

In range and pasture management related to beef production, an AUM is often defined as the approximate amount of forage that a 1,000 cow with a calf that is less than three months of age will eat in a month.

This number based on research is estimated at 26 pounds of air-dried forage per day or 780 pounds per month.

Air-dried forage is assumed to be 10 percent moisture and 90% dry matter.

On range and pasture land, forage production that is available to be consumed by a grazing animal is often given in terms of AUM per acre.

In continuous season long grazing usually only 25 percent of total forage production is estimated to be available for grazing.

For example, Sandhills rangeland can vary widely in the amount of forage available that can sustainably be consumed.

If a range site is rated in fair to good condition and at this condition is assessed as having 0.4 AUM of forage that can be grazed per acre that means on the average for this range site it would take 2.5 acres per month to feed a 1,000 pound cow. ❖

Karla Jenkins is a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension cow-calf and range management specialist, who recently recorded a webinar that highlights understanding what an AUM is and its use in range management. On this webinar page, there are also several UNL Extension NebGuides and publications available that can help explain how an AUM is used in making management decisions on rangeland. Go to

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The Fence Post Updated Oct 16, 2013 03:58PM Published Jul 29, 2013 09:37AM Copyright 2013 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.