Why Would You Plant Oats in August?!?!

– Curt Stivison, Engineering Technician, Fairfield SWCD and Stan Smith, PA, OSU Extension

This is an interesting question that you can’t imagine the answer to until you’ve seen first hand what oats planted in August look like. As a part of the recent Fairfield/Licking County Advanced Grazing and Conservation School, participants visited the accompanying photographed field of oats being strip grazed. These photos were taken on Saturday, November 30, 2002 of oats that were planted on August 5, 2002 into a previously harvested wheat field.

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From the photo you may be able to note that the average height of the oats is 36 inches or better, and the oats have been slowly heading out for approximately 3 weeks. In fact, NRCS Grasslands Management Specialist Bob Hendershot estimates that there is an average of 5 tons (yes, 10,000 pounds) of dry matter per acre on this 30 acre field. Even more impressively, Hendershot has discovered through manure sample analysis that the bred cows grazing this field are realizing 18% protein from the oats.

The Wolfinger family of Lancaster manage this farm. They no-tilled two bushels of bin run oats into this field on August 5. Immediately ahead of the grain drill they spread 100 pounds of urea as a source of nitrogen. On November 8, they began to strip graze 44 bred cows and one mature bull on the field. Presently the group is being offered approximately 8 foot by 950 foot strips of the oats once a day, plus poor quality hay in a round bale feeder. These strips yield the equivalent of approximately 40 pounds of dry matter per head per day, of which they are consuming all but about 6 inches of the stubble. Presently they are also consuming less than a large round bale per week in addition to the oats. At the present rate of consumption, this 30 acre field of oats will maintain these 45 cattle for over 4 months!

Total cost of production for seed, fertilizer, and planting amounted to approximately $30 per acre. Prior to assigning a cost for land, and the labor of moving the fence, costs per head per day amount to less than 20 cents!

Next year, we plan to explore aerial seedings in August of oats, turnips and rye into standing corn and soybeans. The objective will be to discover if timely aerial seeding of these annual and bi-annual forages into standing crops will allow for the wintering of cows while only feeding minimal harvested and stored forages.