Ohio beef producers can supplement their forage options with summer annuals, says Rory Lewandowski, with Ohio State University Extension.
Summer annuals are known to thrive in summer heat, are drought tolerant, and can be grazed or stored as feed. Viable examples include sorghum, sudangrass, sorghum-sudangrass hybrids, millet, teff grass and corn, Lewandoski says.
With hay stock levels at record lows in several Midwest states, including Ohio, beef producers in need of forage will be looking for alternatives. Hay stored on U.S. farms as of May 1 totaled 14.2 million tons, which is a 34% decline compared to the same time last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's May 10 crop production report. Ohio's hay stocks on May 1 were 140,000 tons compared to 308,000 tons at the same time last year.
Summer annuals have the capacity to produce up to five tons of dry matter over summer months, and a majority of them can be grazed or cut two or three times starting as soon as 30 to 45 days after planting, he said, which makes them a good option for producers seeking other options amidst reports of declining hay supplies.
"While most producers are optimistic about the growing season, with the first hay crops looking good at this point, I want to alert producers that there are other opportunities out there," Lewandowski says. "This way producers are aware of what their options are and have time to do some planning and planting now so they won't be in a position over the summer wishing they'd known about these options sooner."
An advantage of summer annuals is that they can be used as a double crop when a previous crop is harvested by the end of June. For example, producers can plant a summer annual after the first or second cutting of alfalfa or after the harvest of barley.