Low feed supplies and questionable alfalfa stands have livestock producers considering alternative forage options this spring. Many growers are looking for early silage crops they can plant, harvest and feed before fall's corn silage harvest.
Before growers decide which crop to plant, DuPont Pioneer agronomists recommend that they determine which part of the ration they need to re-supply. Summer forages can be planted to supplement alfalfa, corn silage or both. Alfalfa delivers protein, while corn silage provides starch.
Livestock producers can start by rebuilding alfalfa acreages with new seeding. With good weed control, growers can clear plant alfalfa with no nurse crop, and they may get two cuttings this season. The advantages of nurse crops include erosion control and weed control; the disadvantage is that nurse crops compete with alfalfa plants for sunlight, water and nutrients.
The next consideration is replacing the starch provided by corn silage in the ration. Alfalfa provides no starch, but there are alternatives. Small grains by themselves, or with peas, can be cut at two different growth stages for two types of feed.
Cut at the boot stage, the resulting grains provide digestible forage with no starch. Cut at the soft-dough stage, the small grains provide starch and higher dry-matter yield - but less digestible forage fraction.
For more information about early season forage options, visit pioneer.com/silagezone or contact your local Pioneer sales professional.