Grazing Winter Annuals
Winter annuals: planted in the fall, there for you in the spring! These types of crops are seeded in the fall and require a vernalization period in the winter in order to go into full production mode. As winter annuals such as cereal rye, winter wheat, and winter triticale come up this spring, they are ready to grow as forage and will go to seed later on this spring, if allowed. What is the best way to use these?
Wheat, triticale and rye can all provide excellent forage quality as harvested feed as well as grazing. Cereal rye is photoperiod sensitive, so it will head out the same time of year, no matter its size. This means the grazing window is the same length whether you rotationally graze through the cereal rye or not. We have found that the best management may be to set stock cereal rye because of its fast growth in the spring.
The minimum height we look for to turn cattle onto the cereal rye is at least 6-8 inches. If you must put livestock on earlier, it can be 4-6 inches tall with dry hay supplemented. Just like when you are grazing pastures earlier than desired, having dry hay available is important for maintaining rumen fill. Also, be cautious of mineral imbalance issues, such as grass tetany when grazing young grass such as grass tetany.
As these winter annuals green up and get going in the spring, they can serve as the perfect environment to calve on. The quickly establishing grass can help soak up early spring moisture helping with any muddy conditions. Calving on clean grass can improve overall calf health early on.
How are you managing your winter annuals this spring?