Dale Watson
Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist
University of Missouri Extension




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Please send your comments and sund suggestions to Dale Watson, Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, 111 N. Mason, Carrollton, MO 64633, call 660-542-1792, or send messages by e-mail to: watsond@missouri.edu.
For the Week of
May 11, 2000

Alternative Crops For Silage

Even though there has been some rain throughout a portion of the Midwest recently, we are still far from having the amount needed to replenish the supply in water holding impoundments. The reduced amount of water in these storage facilities is steadily decreasing, causing concern for numerous metropolitan areas and livestock facilities.

I have been questioned regarding the availability of alternative crops for forage in each of the drought years. Most any crop can be used successfully for silage if it is harvested in the correct stage of maturity. Basically these fall into two categories. These are small grain and sudangass/ sorghum sudangrass varieties. Protein values of oats, barley, wheat, and triticale are all about equal to alfalfa if the alfalfa is harvested in the full bloom stage. The TDN values for these small grain species are higher than alfalfa harvested in the full bloom stage and lower than corn silage. Again the secret for quality forage from small grain crops is the stage of plant maturity when harvested.

The quality of small grain silage can change rapidly within a period of 4 to 7 days. Delays of only a few days and/or inclement harvesting conditions will decrease the nutritional quality of small grain forage. Harvested forage of reduced nutritional quality can be utilized by feeding it to dry cows or mature cows. If sufficient rains occur it is possible to harvest small grains a second time when the first harvest occurs in the boot stage.

Sudangrass/sorghum sudangrass forage can be an alternative forage crop. Harvest early in the pre-head stage for peak nutritional value. When harvested at the pre-head maturity sudangrass/sorghum sudangrass forage is comparable to small grain forages. An additional advantage to sudangrass/sorghum sudangrass is that additional cuttings can be harvested providing rain is received throughout the growing season. Frequently it is advantageous to harvest these crops as silage rather than hay to reduce the nitrate problem. The insiling process reduces the amount of nitrate in the silage at feeding compared to storing harvested hay.

University of Missouri ExtensionDale's Country Trails - May 11, 2000
http://outreach.missouri.edu/agconnection/DCT/CT051100.html -- Revised: April 20, 2004