Cool-season and warm-season annual grasses can provide producers with high quality forages for their beef animals, and the tonnage isn't bad either, according to University of Nebraska Extension educator, Dennis Bauer of Ainsworth.
Bauer explains that planted annuals can often meet the nutrient requirements of cattle and provide ample volume of roughage to help balance the herd's diet.
At a Beef Profit Tips meeting in Center recently, Bauer told farmers that UNL studies at North Platte found that spring-seeded cereal forages like oats, barley, triticale and hard red winter wheat provided forages with crude protein levels between 12% and 14%.
"They were high in crude protein and high in total digestible nutrients," Bauer said. "You would meet the protein and energy requirements of the herd even after calving by feeding these high quality forages that contain 10% crude protein and 60% TDN (total digestible nutrients)."
In the cool-season annual studies, harvest was done in mid-June, with all of the annuals producing at least 2 tons per acre of forage.
Warm-season annuals like teff from Ethiopia, crabgrass and foxtail millet were also studied.
"Teff has extremely high quality and good regrowth," Bauer said. Of the warm-season annuals in the study, teff produced the most tonnage through three cuttings, but all of the forages produced between four and five tons per acre through three cuttings. Crude protein for teff and crabgrass ran between 16% and 18%, with the millet at 12%. TDN was between 54% and 65% on all of the annuals in the study.
When fall oats was sampled for crude protein and TDN in October, the standing oats tested at 8.5% on crude protein with TDN at 66.6%. If left in the windrow for cattle to graze as late as December, samples still tested 8.8% on protein and 69.8% on TDN. "Cattle will go through a lot of snow to graze windrows, and the protein and quality is still very good," Bauer said.
According to Bauer, it costs less to feed high quality hay without having to feed a supplement, compared to feeding lower quality forages with a supplement. The more cattle that are in the herd, the greater the savings, he said.
You can learn more by contacting Bauer at 402-387-2213.