When to Harvest Warm Seasons

If you have planted warm seasons this year, then hopefully they are up out of the ground soaking up the sun! Now comes the time to decide when you will be harvesting these forages. Depending on what you have planted, you may be planning to graze, make multiple cuttings, or one cutting to harvest the forage. Below shows the various times these cuttings and grazings could occur and the benefits of each:

Vegetative Stage - Early in the development of warm season grasses before any seedhead development. If you need to graze your summer annuals early, this can be a useful time for that. Dry hay may need supplemented to increase the overall dry matter content of the forage.

  • Earliest harvest time

  • Higher protein

  • Lower lignin

  • Lower sugars

  • ~80-85% moisture

Boot Stage - Seed head has formed, but still remains inside the stem. A flag leaf will be visible and you will be able to feel the seed head inside of the stem towards the top. This is an ideal time to harvest a multi-cut sorghum sudangrass or millet.

  • Low starch

  • Lower protein

  • More sugars

  • ~75-80% moisture

Soft Dough Stage - Seedhead is developed and beginning to harden. When you press a seed between your fingers, it will squish and feel doughy. This is the timing to aim for when doing a single cut harvest of a forage sorghum.

  • Moderate starch

  • Low protein (corn silage)

  • Higher sugar

  • ~70% moisture