Late corn planting this year due to a wet spring may mean a decreased supply of silage in future months, and planting cool season annuals such as annual ryegrass, winter grains, and brassicas, can be a way to ensure your stocks of stored feed are adequate in the upcoming months. Cool season annuals can be both harvested for storage and grazed in the late fall. The sooner you plant cool season annuals, the more time they will have to establish and produce biomass.
Annual ryegrass is a fantastic fall forage. It establishes quickly and is very palatable for grazing. Annual ryegrass can produce about 0.5 ton of dry matter per acre in our region if sown by late August. The seed is typically quite inexpensive compared to winter grains or brassicas making it a very affordable way to boost fall grazing and/or feed stores. Annual ryegrass can be drilled at a rate of 20 to 30 pounds per acre at a depth of ¼ to ½ inch.
Winter grains are also great options for fall forage. Winter triticale, wheat, and rye can produce large quantities of biomass in the fall prior to going into dormancy for the winter. They can also provide early spring forage that can be harvested prior to planting corn or soybeans. Oats are another annual forage option. They can also be planted in the fall but will winterkill in northern New England.
Grains may be seeded with a grain drill into a well prepared seed bed or seeded with a no-till drill at a rate of 125 to 150 pounds at a depth of about 1 inch. Plant these winter grains as early as possible to maximize fall forage production. Grains planted later than mid-September will not yield much, if any, forage this fall. For more information on managing winter grains for forage see the following fact sheet:
Forage brassicas, such as turnips, kales, and radishes, can provide plenty of high quality fall forage. They may be seeded alone or in combination with other annuals, and they can yield 1500 to 2000 pounds of dry matter per acre. Brassicas are highly digestible and therefore, need to be grazed with caution to avoid bloating. Animals should only be allowed to graze brassicas for short periods of time and given adequate fiber. Brassicas can be drilled at a rate of about 6 pounds per acre at a depth of ¼ to ½ inch.
For More Information
For current research on using cool season annual forages, see our recent reports: