As fall has now began we are now within our window to begin planting our cool season grasses and small grains for grazing or spring hay. So today I just wanted to touch on some reminders for planting these cool season annuals to ensure you produce a quality stand.
When it comes to cool season crops we plant for livestock production annual ryegrass would definitely be the most popular and with good reason. Ryegrass is one of the highest quality forages that can be grown in Georgia, often providing over 70% TDN and 18% CP if grazed in the late vegetative stage. Ryegrass is a well-adapted winter annual that can be planted in prepared seedbeds or over seeded onto perennial grass sods for late winter and spring grazing. When planting ryegrass you should shoot for a rate of 20-30 lbs to the acre and a planting depth of ¼-1/2 inch.
Most of our other most popular cool season annual grasses fall into the small grains category. These include rye (not to be confused with ryegrass), oats, and wheat. Rye is the most drought tolerant and winter hardy small grain grown in Georgia. It is also more tolerant of soil acidity than other winter annual grasses. It can be planted in early fall and usually produces good grazing by late fall. Oats when seeded in mid-fall furnish a high quality forage in late fall and spring. However oats are is not as cold hardy as rye and can winter-kill during harsh winters. Wheat is a winter-hardy small grain that provides forage in late fall (some varieties), early winter, and spring and is well-suited to grazing or silage. When grazing wheat it is important to ensure cattle do not graze the growing point to ensure quality regrowth. All of these small grains should be planted at 90 pounds to the acre if drilled and 120 pounds to the acre if broadcasted. All of these species should be planted at a depth of ½ to 1 inch deep. Blending rye with ryegrass or annual legumes is very popular and will extend the grazing period later into the spring
Keep in mind that ideally you should have all of these cool season annuals in the ground by around October 20th at the latest. This allows for good establishment during the fall and prior to colder temperatures that tend to arrive by mid-November. If you have any questions regarding the planting of cool season annuals in your pasture feel free to give me a call. This is Thad Glenn with the Stephens County Extension office for WNEG radio.