Extending the grazing season has been a mantra of both livestock producers and forage researchers for the past 10 years or more. The end game is to reduce stored forage needs.
One approach examined by University of Nebraska researchers was to seed a mixture of oats, turnips, and radishes in late August to early September, then monitor the forage quality from November through January. The results of the two-year study were reported in the 2018 Nebraska Beef Cattle Report.
From early November to early January, the digestibility of oats declined by 10 percentage units; however, the in vitro organic matter digestibility (IVOMD) was still at 67 percent at the final January sampling date. Similarly, crude protein content of the oats remained relatively high at 15 percent. The researchers noted that this forage quality level was equal to that of good grass hay.
The brassicas maintained a forage quality level comparative to that of a feed concentrate. Although the digestibility declined by 5 percentage units from November to January, it still remained in excess of 80 percent. The crude protein content of the brassica leaves was 23 to 26 percent at the final sampling date.
The researchers noted that quality of the forage mix remained relatively high even though the plant tissue turned brown following multiple freezes. This offers producers a viable fall and early winter grazing alternative.
A more detailed study report is available here.