By Joe Sellers, ISU Extension beef specialist
Hay feeding has extended and turn out to pastures has been delayed in 2018. This may have resulted in more damage to calving pastures and winter feeding areas. In addition, most of Iowa is low on hay resources, so maximizing forage production will be critical. When the weather cooperates and you do rotate your cows and calves to fresh spring pastures, you may want to improve those damaged feeding areas to get more summer feed.
Damaged pastures where lots of days of feeding took place will also have a lot of nutrients from manure and feed waste to give warm season annuals a boost. Depending on the level of disturbance and the amount of hay residue, you may have to haul some manure or do some light tillage or shaping prior to seeding.
You could use a variety of grasses, legumes and brassicas in your warm season grazing mix. Tall warm season annual grasses like pearl millet, sorghum-sudan grass crosses or sudan grass probably will work the best and will use the N, P and K left by your feeding area. If you want a more diverse mix you could add legumes like field peas or forage soybeans, and brassicas such as rape or radishes. If you want a smaller stature of grass you could use oats, spring wheat or barley.
You may need to manage these summer annuals with temporary electric fencing to limit access until they get a good start and graze at the proper heights. Here are two publications that supply seeding rate recommendations and details on various crops:
Short-Term and Supplemental Forages (IBC)
Summer Annual Forage Grasses (UNL)
Source: Iowa State University
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