Choosing the right cool-season forage
Cool-season forages can be a great opportunity to improve livestock gain while reducing feed costs during the winter months. Many cool-season forages also have greater total digestible nutrient content and crude protein when compared to summer perennial grasses and mild winter temperatures can increase the grazing season, potentially resulting in greater pasture productivity There are a wide range of cool-season forages available but based on your needs and site conditions you may want to use one over the other. Some of the different cool-season forages and recommended varieties are listed below:
Ryegrass – Adapted to wide range of soil conditions, may delay perennial grasses due to late season growth Recommended Varieties: Andes, Attain, Big Boss, Credence, Diamond T, Earlyploid, Flying A, Frostproof (recently released by UF/IFAS), Jumbo, Lonestar, Marshall (susceptible to rust and gray leaf spot), Maximus, Nelson, Prine, TAMTBO, and Tetrastar
Oats – Not as cold tolerant as rye, Rust disease issues, Hessian Fly resistant. Recommended Varieties: Legend 567 (currently crown rust resistant), Horizon 720 (moderately resistant to crown rust), Horizon 306, Horizon 270 (crown rust susceptible), and RAMLA 99016 (moderately crown rust susceptible)
Triticale – Good forage quality and disease resistance, cannot handle close grazing. Recommended Varieties: Trical 342, Monarch, and NF 201
Rye – High yields, drought tolerant, potential higher cost, possible disease issues. Recommended Varieties: FL 401 (for early grazing or use in blends), FL 104 (seed availability may be limited, full-season grazing), Wrens Abruzzi and late-forage season producers, developed in Oklahoma: Bates RS4, Elbon, Oklon, Maton, and Maton II.
Arrowleaf Clover – Adapted to heavier soils, late season production, cannot tolerant low pH. Recommended Varieties: Blackhawk and Apache (for North and Central Florida). Yuchi is not recommended because it is an older variety and is more susceptible to disease. Blackhawk and Apache have improved virus resistance compared to Yuchi.
Crimson Clover – Adapted to well-drained soils, shade tolerance, high yield, shorter grazing season. Recommended Varieties: Dixie and AU-Robin (seed availability may be limited).
White Clover – Adapted to moist soils, can reseed well, production can be limited due to pests. Recommended Varieties: Louisiana S-1, Ocoee (released by UF/IFAS, nematode tolerant, seed availability in 2018 may be limited), Osceola (released by UF/IFAS), Regal Ladino, and Regalgraze. Durana is also well adapted, has a prostrate growth habit, and persists well under grazing, but it has lower initial forage yields.
Cool-Season Forage Tips
Soil Test, Don’t Guess – Certain forages need different nutrients that may not be abundant in your soil, check first before seeding to determine possible nutrient needs
- Do Your Rain Dance – Planting without adequate moisture can be a sure way for complete forage failure
- Choose wisely! – Select a variety that is adapted to your particular region
- Mix it up! – Consider using a blend of several different forages to increase the longevity and stability of the pasture
- Work Smart – Consider using a no-till seed drill for optimum forage production in established pasture
- Cage it! – Consider using enclosures to exclude livestock from utilizing the forage, allowing you to monitor the success of your forage stands.
- What did I use last year? – Record keeping will allow you to understand what worked and didn’t work through the years.
If you are looking for cool season forage planting times and rates, please read the following document or consult your local UF/IFAS county extension agent for further assistance.