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Forage minute

By Jerry Volesky and Ben Beckman
-Nebraska Extension

PLANNING SPRING AND SUMMER FORAGES

While we are still early in the new year, it may be time to start planning and thinking about any spring or summer annual forages that we might plant. Part of the process may be anticipating some dry conditions this summer and a need for extra feed or booking seed early for possible discounts.

First, an important consideration would be to decide whether we plan to hay, graze, or silage this crop; and secondly, what is the time period that we want to be able to graze or hay. For spring or cool-season annual forages, the planting period is typically late March to early April. This would include things like oats, field peas, or other spring cereal grains. With that planting date, these would provide grazing in late May and through June

For the summer annual forages, the planting period is typically late May and on into the summer months. This would include things like forage sorghum, sudangrass, sorghum-sudan hybrids, pearl millet and foxtail millet. Additionally, other species or legumes that are typical of some cover crop mixes could be part of the package as well. With a late-May or early-June planting of a summer annual, grazing should be available in July.



One should also consider the herbicides that may have been used on a field the previous year. Some herbicides have long residuals that could hinder establishment even into this spring.

Doing your homework and planning ahead can help make your forage season run smoothly.



DROUGHT CLAUSES IN PASTURE LEASES

If you rent or lease pasture, you know drought can cause big issues. With all of Nebraska currently experiencing drought conditions, is your lease prepared to deal with the possibility of dry conditions this summer?

Pasture leases can range from simple to complex, having a plan for adverse weather helps protect the landowner and tenant. Without one, the landowner risks having the pasture over grazed, resulting in decreased future production and opening the door for weed issues. The tenant runs the risk of poor cattle performance and depending on how the lease is negotiated, being taken off pasture early without a place for animals to go.

How and who decides when pasture utilization is complete and animals need to be removed is not easy, and I can’t give you a magic solution. What I do know, is talking about it now and deciding on a framework that both parties can agree upon can save time and headache later on if conditions deteriorate.

Be sure to discuss how pasture condition and utilization will be assessed, any adjustments to grazing period length or stocking rate that low production will activate, adjustments to the rent payment, and how any insurance, disaster, or government payments will be handled.

These discussions may not be easy, but they are worth the effort. Splitting drought risk between both landowner and tenant as much as possible is often best. Make sure to write it down so there is no miscommunication later on.

Drought can play havoc with pasture leases, but by planning ahead and being prepared, you can be ready and avoid headaches later on.


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