What is in this article?:
- Cool-season forages can boost production, cut feed costs
- Extend grazing season, cut costs
- Ryegrass mixtures
- Annual, perennial clovers
Use of cool-season forages can allow livestock producers to extend the grazing season and reduce the need for stored feeds, according to Mississippi State University forage specialists. Mississippi producers are fortunate to be able to grow a large number of forage crops, says Rocky Lemus, MSU Extension assistant professor of plant and soil sciences, including warm- and cool-season species of legumes and grasses, and both perennial and annual forages are common.
Annual, perennial clovers
The MSU research plots include 24 different varieties of annual and perennial clovers, including arrowleaf, ball, berseem, crimson, Persian, subterranean, red, and white, and common hairy vetch.
“We don’t have a lot of data on clover production in Mississippi,” Lemus says, “and we want to see what kind of production these varieties can provide over four or five years. We’ll also soil sample every summer to estimate how much nitrogen contribution they are making.
“Clover isn’t for everyone. You need to have a good pH, preferably in the 6-and-up range, along with optimum phosphorus and potassium. It’s very important to apply lime, if necessary, to get the proper pH, and to choose varieties carefully for your particular location and production system.”
In MSU tests in 2010, annual crimson clover produced the highest yield per acre, 1,189 pounds, followed by Yuchi arrowleaf, with 1,050 pounds, and common hairy vetch, with 726 pounds after one cut.
“You’ve probably heard many times that we can’t grow alfalfa in Mississippi,” Lemus told producers.
“Yes, we can — but, you must be willing to meet the requirements of the crop, and you must have the proper soil and soil conditions.
“Alfalfa requires a deep, well-drained soil with good internal and surface drainage, with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0. If lime is applied before planting, time must be allowed for the pH to adjust.”
There can also be problems from fungal diseases such as sclerotina, that can kill the root system, and aphids may be a problem in spring or fall.
“We have 12 different varieties of differing dormancies in our trials, and right now all look really good,” Lemus says. “They were planted last fall at a seeding rate of 20 pounds per acre.”
In 2010 trials at the White Sand Experiment Station, fall dormancy varieties yielded from 3,306 pounds per acre to 5,779 pounds per acre.
Monsanto is now marketing Roundup Ready alfalfa, Lemus notes, and “we think two of those varieties may have a fit in Mississippi.”
He cautions growers to “be aware that if you plant the Roundup Ready varieties, you have to keep records of where you plant them and you have to cut them at 10 percent bloom so they won’t go to seed — which means they can’t be used in wildlife food plots.” Producers should follow the environmental stewardship guidelines offered with the round-up ready varieties.
The forage tour was hosted by the Mississippi State University Forage Extension Program, the Oktibbeha County Extension Service, and Wax seed Company.
The MSU Extension forage program will conduct four grazing schools this year, one in each region of the state. Dates/locations are May 26, Brookhaven; June 2, Prairie; Sept. 22, Poplarville; and Sept. 29, Batesville. The one-day schools will cover diverse forage topics and include hands-on demonstrations. Details may be obtained from Mississippi county Extension offices.