Don’t try to make a perennial forage seeding if wet field conditions delay planting until after May 1, advises John Grimes, Ohio State University Extension beef coordinator.
“This places us outside of the recommended planting window for permanent forage seeding in Ohio,” says Grimes. “My advice is to avoid the temptation as cool-season grass and legume seedings are an expensive long-term investment that should be made in the best scenario possible.”
If seeding of a permanent pasture or hayfield is delayed, you have a variety of management decisions to make that will potentially impact your operation for several years. Analyze your land resources, equipment-owned or custom-hire options, available feed supply and animal inventory to make the best possible decision for your operation, he says.
If you need to maintain, expand, or improve your permanent forage base, one decision that needs to take place fairly quickly is whether the seeding needs to be completed in the late summer or early fall of 2011 or can be delayed until 2012. The ideal window for a late-season seeding in Ohio ranges from Aug. 1 through Sept. 15 depending on location within the state. If that’s your goal, you have few options to produce a forage crop and still complete a 2011 seeding.
“If you have an existing forage stand that is fading in productivity and needs renovating, consider taking a first cutting of hay, destroy the forage stand through the use of chemicals or conventional tillage and make the forage seeding later this year,” Grimes says. “If you do not need to make the permanent forage seeding until 2102, take the first cutting of hay and then plant soybeans or corn silage for revenue generation or feed production.”
If the field in question has no existing forage growth or has stubble from a previous crop, a few more options may be available. If you are in need of immediate forage production, consider a summer-annual forage crop such as oats, annual ryegrass, pearl millet, teff, a sorghum-sudangrass hybrid or corn silage. Each has its own strengths and/or weaknesses.
The desire to make a 2011 perennial forage seeding probably limits the full-season effectiveness of the corn silage, sorghum-sudangrass and teff options. They can produce significant amounts of feed if they are given a full season of growth. If rotational grazing can be implemented, it may be the most cost-effective harvest option. If mechanica l harvest must be used, consider "green wrapping" the crop as haymaking can be difficult because most summer-annual forage options have larger stems that can make drying difficult, says Grimes.
“Given the current level of corn and soybean prices, it may feasible to place the acreage in grain production for 2011 and make the forage seeding in 2012,” says Grimes. “Of course, the current soil conditions and the impact on the eventual planting date must be considered. Inputs that will be purchased for an unplanned crop will certainly be more expensive than inputs purchased with seasonal discounts. If your equipment situation is lacking and custom operators are not readily available, consider cash renting or a share crop arrangement if a willing party can be identified.”