Brassicas and Small Grains as Forages

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator, Wayne County

Brassicas include turnips, rape and kale.  Planted by the end of August, these crops can produce around a ton of dry matter/acre.  Brassicas generally produce a high quality forage, in excess of 18-20 % CP with TDN values in the 75 to 85% range and very low fiber.  They act almost like a concentrate grain mix.  Brassicas work best under a grazing system because they are so low in fiber.  They don’t work as a stored forage.  In fact, very often we recommend planting a cereal grain in mixture with brassicas because they supply the fiber that brassicas don’t have.  Planted together, this is a nice grazing option for mid to late fall time period.  One mixture that is popular includes 1 bu/acre of spring oats + 1 bu/acre cereal rye + 4-5 lbs/acre of turnips.

Cereal grain crops include rye, oats, wheat and triticale.   These cereal grain crops can be planted anytime from August to early September for oats or August into November for cereal crops that overwinter such as wheat and rye.  However, later planting dates are not going to yield a fall forage crop. For those who may want a late fall stored feed option, any of the cereal grain crops planted by late August can provide 1.5 to 2.0 tons of DM/acre or more in some cases, when harvested in late October or early November. The caveat is that if these forages are mechanically harvested they need to be harvested as a wet forage and wrapped as baleage.