UNL CropWatch April 15, 2011 Prepare Forage Plan Now To Beat the Drought

UNL CropWatch April 15, 2011 Prepare Forage Plan Now To Beat the Drought

April 15, 2011

Despite receiving rain late last week, many areas of Nebraska are still dry below the surface. Fortunately, you can act now to minimize the potential impact of drought on your forage production.

For starters, prepare a strategy to use leftover hay. One of the better options is to feed hay a bit longer this spring before turning cows out to permanent pasture. This is contrary to my usual recommendation to graze more and feed less hay. Allowing pastures to accumulate a bit more growth before grazing will provide more total grazeable forage if drought prevents later regrowth. Leftover hay also can be used later during the grazing season to give pastures more time to recover between grazings.

Another strategy is planting drought-tolerant forages for pasture or hay. Summer annual grasses like sudangrass, sorghum-sudan hybrids, and pearl millet are excellent choices. Wait until soils are consistently warm before planting these grasses. Late May or early June usually is best.

Reserve some ground now for these drought-insurance grasses, before you plant everything to corn, beans, and other crops. Also consider planting these grasses or fall cover crop forages into the stubble as a double crop after wheat harvest.

If rains do come, great, but if they don’t, planning and acting now to reduce potential forage losses from drought will pay big dividends.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist