This drought is the real deal. From University of Nebraska Extension specialists to producers across the state, everyone is scrambling for ways to extend and expand forage availability for livestock. With a little help from some timely rains, two Holt County producers have come up with a unique way to get the most forage production out of their land.
Doug Steffen of O'Neill, and his partner, feedlot owner, Eric Popkes, are planning to triple crop some of their non-irrigated land this season. With considerable drought choking much of the state, these Holt County producers are hoping to hay, chop and graze as much forage as possible from around 80 acres.
Steffen planted oats and baled the crop early for hay. After applying a burndown herbicide to relieve weed pressure, he drilled a mixture of forage sorghum, corn and tall, 3.0 maturity soybeans into oats stubble. He fertilized his oats early on, but elected not to fertilize his summer forage mixture until he knew there would be an acceptable stand.
"Fortunately, we received a rain right after I drilled the seed," Steffen says. "My plan is to chop the forage mixture for silage when the forage sorghum reaches dough stage."
The two producers are looking for diversity in their planting strategies, and for ways to provide the most production, even when moisture is short. "After we chop, I would like to plant rye to provide some grazing for cattle," Steffen says.
UNL Extension forage and range specialist, Jerry Volesky, recommends seeding two to two and a half bushels per acre of oats with one to two pounds per acre of turnips, to provide a complimentary mixture. "Another option might include seeding a mixture of oats and rye or oats and triticale," Volesky says. "This would provide grazing from primarily the oats this fall and grazing from the rye or triticale next spring."
If you'd like more information on planting and managing extra forages, contact Volesky at 308-696-6710. Watch for all the details in the August print issue of Nebraska Farmer.