By Wayne Flanary, Extension field specialist in agronomy

The cool wet weather has affected cool season grass growth. Cool season grasses are short in height and production. Pastures, which were grazed heavily early spring, have limited regrowth. Now is the time to determine your forage needs for summer and fall and put an action plan in place. You may want to consider moving row crop acres to annual forage production.

Summer annuals can provide tonnage which may fill in your shortages. Plan and implement now so you have forage available for your livestock needs.

Summer annuals such as pearl miller, sudan grass, sorghum sudan and sorghums can provide additional forage. Each have pros and cons so it is important to familiarize yourself with each species. Many species have improved forage quality through breeding efforts.

Before you plant, consider how you will harvest, such as grazing, haying, wrapping and silage. This is important as some growers might choose a species which is not suitable for the harvest method. For example, sorghums would not be good for haying as the stem is big and will not dry. Whereas sudan or pearl millet can be hayed as the stem is still large but a crimper may be used to break the stem and allow for drying.

Growers who are considering grazing summer annuals should be concerned with prussic acid and nitrate toxicity. Heavily fertilized forages may contain high levels of nitrates across all species. Insiling, however will reduce nitrate levels. It’s always best to test for forage quality and nitrates with summer annuals.

Prussic acid is a concern in harvesting small plants. Allowing sudans and sorghum sudans to growth to 24-inches in height is recommended. Carefully learn all precautions with particular species.

Guide Sheet 4661, “Warm Season Annual Forage Crops” can be found on the University of Missouri Extension website which contains information on different species.

With cool season grasses being short, it is time to implement strategies to increase forage production.