Versatile, hardy summer feed options

Versatile, hardy summer feed options

23 September 2018

Farmers in warmer districts are well-aware of the importance of securing their summer feed early. They know a warm summer can turn to drought in a matter of weeks.

Running a farm business means the to-do list is always long and securing summer feed supply can be one that falls into the “as required” category.

With new restrictions on PKE usage, farmers who find all contract maize silage is already committed for the year should know there are crops they can successfully plant as they move into summer.

The key limitations to establishing a crop leading into summer are the potential lack of moisture within the seed zone combined with hot temperatures at the soil surface. But there are two heat-tolerant crops which are great options for successful November/December planting - greenfeed maize and a forage sorghum or sudan-grass crop.

Both maize and forage sorghum x sudan grass have larger seeds which can be planted in the soil moisture zone, allowing good crop establishment even when planting conditions are dry.

These crops are excellent options if you don’t have enough grass silage or if you have struggled to establish brassica, chicory or fodder beet crops.

Greenfeed maize

Maize is best-known for its use as silage, but due to its flexibility it can also be a very valuable greenfeed crop for feeding in early summer.

The feed value for greenfeed maize ranges from 10.3 to 10.8 megajoules of metabolisable energy per kilogram per day (MJME/kgDM), with higher energy levels achieved as the grain content increases.

Crops can be break-fed or chopped using a maize harvester or a flail-type mower. Feeding behind an electric wire reduces crop wastage from trampling.

There is just one caution with greenfeed maize: be careful when feeding mature crops which have high amounts of grain present. Limit access to reduce risk of grain overload or acidosis in cows.

Forage sorghum x sudan grass hybrids

These hybrids produce good yields of moderate-quality feed in a relatively short timeframe – an excellent option for summer feed in warmer districts.

Because of their rapid growth, crops can be first grazed or harvested (at 80 to100cm in height) in as little as 35 to 45 days after planting with further regular grazing achievable regularly afterwards.

Pioneer® brand Bettagraze is a proven forage sorghum x sudan grass hybrid with a high sugar content, fine stems and a high leaf-to-stem ration for excellent palatability and good feed value.

If the feed is not required, it can be harvested as silage or hay and stored for later feeding.

It is recommended farmers test forage sorghum x sudan grass for nitrate levels and/or prussic acid levels prior to feeding or ensiling. If the levels are high, contact your local vet or animal nutritionist for feed management advice.

For more information on the best summer crop options, contact your local Farm Source TSR.

Article supplied by Pioneer® Brand Products