BOONVILLE, Mo. — Forage producers searching for options amid sustained drought should consider emergency forages, says Todd Lorenz, University of Missouri Extension agronomy specialist.
The drought is not going away and producers need to find a way to fill feed gaps, he says. Three years of back-to-back drought leave producers searching for options.
“The impact of 2022 weather extremes, where both livestock and row crop production sustained challenges for the entire year, has now triggered even more challenges in 2023,” Lorenz says in a university news release.
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Lorenz says producers can try several things that will help:
- Consider late summer/fall annuals. Options for emergency forages in the late summer/early fall include turnips, oats, cereal rye, triticale, wheat and annual ryegrass.
- Boost stockpiles with nitrogen in August. Additions of nitrogen applied to fescue in August should provide a significant increase of stockpile as a late fall to winter forage option.
- Get a soil test. If you haven’t had a recent soil test, do so. Inter-seeding and overseeding will not be successful without adequate fertility.
Drought can create an opportunity to improve thin pasture stands and their long-term quality. Lorenz gives several considerations:
- Thicken stands: Thicken by overseeding or no-till drilling. Fall is the best time to establish cool-season grasses.
- Broadcast legumes: Stands that do not meet the need for overseeding might benefit from adding legumes. These are typically frost-seeded in February.
- Convert some pastures: The benefits of native warm-season grass are often seen during drought conditions. It might be time to consider converting 10-25% of your acres for next year, says Lorenz.
- Practice rotational grazing: Even a simple rotation can stretch your grazing capacity and reduce overgrazing and stand decline.
- Buy or keep reserves on hand: Always have a reserve supply of feed when possible.
Water sources for livestock were stressed last year and have continued dropping to levels not seen since 1980, Lorenz says. Many producers are now also forced to haul water for livestock.