Emergency Forage for Planting Early to Mid-Summer

Authors: Mark Sulc and Bill Weiss

Many dairy producers are facing a critical forage shortage to feed their herds. Forage stands were damaged across Ohio this past winter, and the wet spring has further deteriorated the few stands that initially appeared they might recover from winter damage. It is now too risky to try to establish new perennial forage stands, with the warmer summer weather coming on. We should wait until August to establish perennial stands. Meanwhile, what options can we consider for growing forage this year?

Summer annual grasses can provide forage in as little as 35-40 days.


We are well past the time when cool-season species like oats, triticale, Italian ryegrass, spring barley can be planted. As we move into late May and early June, we must switch to planting warm-season species.

Corn silage is still the top choice for an annual forage in terms of overall greatest dry matter yield and nutritive value compared with the other summer annual options. Even if planted so late as to prevent grain formation, the feeding value of corn is at least equal to that of the other summer annual grasses, and forage yields are likely to be higher. However, corn silage won’t be an option for every situation, especially where forage supplies are already critically short.

Sudangrass, sorghum x sudangrass hybrids, pearl millet, and forage sorghum grow rapidly in summer and yield a total of 3.5 to 5 tons of dry matter with acceptable nutritive value. Forage sorghum can produce up to 8 tons dry matter per acre in a single cut in Ohio. For dairy cows, varieties with the brown-midrib (BMR) trait should be planted, as BMR produces forage almost as good as regular corn silage (although lower in starch) with very good fiber digestibility. Variety performance data is available at:

Soil temperatures should be at least 60-65 F before planting the sorghum species. They can be planted up to late June in northern Ohio and mid-July in central and southern Ohio. For those needing additional forage as soon as possible, sudangrass and sorghum x sudangrass, including the BMR varieties, can be ready for harvest in as little as 40 days at which time up to 2 tons/acre of dry matter is possible. Additional cuttings are possible thereafter.

In the fall, the sorghum species will have the danger of prussic acid poisoning potential after frost events. Pearl millet is essentially free of prussic acid poisoning potential. Nitrate toxicity is possible with all summer annual grasses and management steps should be taken to reduce that risk under high nitrogen conditions and if the summer becomes very dry. Ensiling reduces risk of both prussic acid and nitrate poisoning.

Teff is a warm-season grass that can be used for hay, silage, or pasture. Soils should be at least 60-65 F before planting Teff. The first crop should be ready in 40 to 50 days. It produces 3 to 4 tons of dry matter per acre over several cuttings and can tolerate both drought-stressed and waterlogged soils. More details on managing this forage can be found in a factsheet from Cornell University (http://nmsp.cals.cornell.edu/publications/factsheets/factsheet24.pdf).

Brassica species can be planted in May to early June for late summer grazing or fall grazing by cattle or sheep. These species contain high moisture content, so they should be used for grazing only. Brassicas have very low fiber and high energy and should be treated more like a concentrate than as forage in diets. For more information on brassicas for forage, see the Penn State factsheet at http://www.forages.psu.edu/topics/species_variety_trials/species/brassica/index.html.

Seeding Rates and Mixtures
Plant high quality seed of a known variety, which will ensure high germination rate and avoid unpleasant surprises regarding varietal identity and crop characteristics. Table 1 outlines recommended seeding rates and dates for the different annual grasses. Mixtures of summer-annual grasses and legumes such as field peas and soybeans are marketed by some seed dealers. The legumes can increase protein content but only in the first harvest because they don’t regrow after cutting. Legumes increase the seed cost, so consider the benefit of including legumes vs. supplementing with other protein sources.

Harvesting/Grazing Options

Chopping and ensiling or wet wrapping are the best mechanical harvest alternatives for most of the summer annual grasses. Wilting is often recommended; storage and harvest costs are greater and fermentation quality can be poor with crops less than about 30% dry matter. Ideally, silage should be left undisturbed for at least two weeks to allow the forage to reach stable fermentation. If forage is needed sooner, consider daily greenchopping forage or wet wrapping individual bales for feeding until the silage is ready. Except for Teff, dry baling the summer annual grasses is a challenge. Grazing is really the only option for the brassicas because of the high moisture content.

Table 1. Guidelines for seeding various annual forages. Yield and nutritive value ranges are for silage, which vary greatly with maturity stage at harvest. Generally for hay, expect lower CP and higher NDF concentrations.

Forage crop

Seeding rate (lb/acre)

Planting dates1

Dry matter yield (ton/acre)





Corn silage

28 – 34k2

4/20 – 6/15

5.0 – 9.0

6 – 9

38 – 50

Forage sorghum

8 – 12

5/1 – 7/15

4.5 – 8.0

7 – 12

50 – 66

Sudangrass, sorghum-sudan

20 – 25

5/1 – 7/15

3.5 – 5.0

9 – 15

55 – 68

Pearl millet

15 – 20

5/1 – 7/15

3.0 – 4.5

8 – 17

56 – 67


4 – 5

5/15 – 7/15

2.0 – 4.0

13 – 16

55 – 65

1 Planting date range for Ohio. In southern Ohio, the spring dates should be in the early range, and in the fall, they can be in the later range.
2 28,000 to 34,000 seeds per acre; seed companies provide hybrid specific planting rates.

Corn vs. Soybeans in a Delayed Planting Scenario – Profit Scenarios

by: Barry Ward, Leader, Production Business Management & Director, OSU Income Tax Schools

Wet weather and planting delays throughout much of Ohio and the eastern Cornbelt have many producers thinking about switching corn acres to soybeans or the taking the prevented planting option of their Multiple Peril Crop Insurance policy. Ohio had 9% of intended corn acres planted by May 19th which is far behind the 5 year average of 62%. Farms with pre-plant nitrogen or herbicides applied for corn production may have no option to switch to soybeans. Seed availability may also limit choice for some. Other factors, such as strict adherence to a crop rotation or landlord considerations may limit farmer choice when it comes to switching from corn to soybean plantings in a given year. Farm leases may contain specifications on crop rotations or even what crops may be grown. There may also be unwritten agreements between parties that limit the possibility of growing soybeans in successive years.

Producers that don’t have these limitations may be considering the option of switching acres to soybeans and it will likely come down to expected profit. Field by field budgeting is recommended and with delayed planting the yield expectations change as we move later into the growing season. What will be the likely yields for a given farm for the two crop choices? A recent article, “Delayed Planting Effects on Corn Yield: A “Historical” Perspective” is a good starting point in evaluating potential yield loss due to late corn planting: https://agcrops.osu.edu/newsletter/corn-newsletter/2019-12/delayed-planting-effects-corn-yield-%E2%80%9Chistorical%E2%80%9D-perspective

A recent article highlighting faculty in the College of Food, Agricultural and environmental Sciences always provides valuable insight into the possible yield swings related to late plantings of corn and soybeans: https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/late-start-planting-might-not-hurt-yields-much

Looking at some simple scenarios may get your budgeting process moving for your own fields. These scenarios are based on the 2019 crop enterprise budgets available online at: https://farmoffice.osu.edu/farm-management-tools/farm-budgets

Scenario 1 – Yield prospects remain unchanged, new estimated revenue based on today’s markets:

Corn – 170.2 bu/a & 4.00/bu

Returns Above Variable Costs     $293

Soybeans – 51.5 bu/a & 7.90/bu

Returns Above Variable Costs     $207

Price changes in the last 3 weeks have been favorable to corn and shows some advantage to corn with these assumptions using OSUE Enterprise Budgets.

Scenario 2 – Corn yield 13% lower (per OSU Agronomy Guide, planting date 5-22 through 5-27), soybean yields remain unchanged, new estimated revenue based on today’s markets:

Corn – 148 bu/a & 4.00/bu

Returns Above Variable Costs     $227

Soybeans – 51.5 bu/a & 7.90/bu

Returns Above Variable Costs     $207

The choice becomes closer as we see corn still outperforming soybeans (barely) in Returns Above Variable Costs.

Scenario 3 – Corn yield 13% lower (per OSU Agronomy Guide, planting date 5-22 through 5-27), soybean yields 5% lower, soybean seed costs higher due to higher seeding rate (additional 30,000 seeds per acre planted) for late planted soybeans, new estimated revenue based on today’s markets:

Corn – 148 bu/a & 4.00/bu

Returns Above Variable Costs     $227

Soybeans – 48.9 bu/a & 7.90/bu

Returns Above Variable Costs     $175

This choice again favors corn as the lower soybean yield due to late planting and additional seeding costs make the choice of corn somewhat stronger compared to Scenario 2.

The recent announcements of another round of Market Facilitation Payments and changes to Prevented Planting Coverage due to the pending Disaster Aid Bill may add further complexity to this choice.

As planting is delayed further into June the potential lower yields of both corn and soybeans due to a later planting window will tend to favor soybeans. These simplified scenarios are just examples and farmers should budget for the different yield, price and cost combinations based on their own numbers.

Prevented Planting Decision Tools

By Sam Custer, OSU Extension Educator:

We have reviewed two prevented planting decision tools that can serve as a resource in your decision making process with your crop insurance agent. Both tools also provide resources for determining replant decisions.

In a recent Farmdocdaily article Schnitkey, G., C. Zulauf, K. Swanson and R. Batts. “Prevented Planting Decision for Corn in the Midwest.” farmdoc daily (9):88, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, May 14, 2019 they highlighted their decision tool.

The farmdoc tool can be used to make calculations for expected returns from three options: 1. Take a prevented planting payment and not plant a crop to be harvested or grazed. 2. Plant corn. 3. Plant another crop.

The farmdoc Prevented Planting Module is used to aid in making calculations for each alternative. The Prevented Planting Module is part of the Planting Decision Model, a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet within the FAST series available for download on farmdoc (here). The specific spreadsheet is available (here).

Iowa State also has an article and tool that can be found at https://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/crops/html/a1-57.html.

The Iowa State model can be used to determine three options also: 1. Go ahead and plant the original crop. 2. Plant an alternative crop 3. Abandon the acres, and plant a cover crop.

The Iowa State model is designed specifically for Iowa but allows you to use your numbers. The farmdoc model contains Ohio data but also allows you to use your specific numbers.

Suggestions For Managing Stress

by: Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, Agriculture & Natural Resources:

You have faced several years of poor commodity prices, depressed milk prices, increased input costs, and wet weather. You have looked for areas to reduce costs, evaluated options, implemented changes…and the financial stress continues to take a toll on your physical and mental health. What can you do?


According to the Michigan State University Extension publication “How to Create a Productive Mindset,”…The mind has 70,000 thoughts per day…that’s 70,000 opportunities. The brain is about two percent of your body weight – but uses 20 percent of your energy. Eighty percent of repetitive thoughts are negative, but don’t have to be.

In addition to the Michigan State University Extension publication mentioned earlier, Iowa State University Extension Dairy Specialists Dr. Fred Hall and Dr. Larry Tranel provide the following suggestions for coping with stress:

  • Self-Talk – remind yourself that you have been through difficult times before and will do so again.
  • Choose words like “calm”, “capable”, and “controlled” to maintain a positive mindset.
  • Use deep breathing – do this five times and release slowly.
  • Accept the situation and focus on solutions instead of focusing on the problem.
  • Avoid negative people.
  • Check in on your friends and family. Men generally don’t communicate as well as women. Phone calls or texts to friends and family are simple gestures that can be very comforting and meaningful.
  • Don’t shut out family – communicate with members about your worries and concerns. Family can provide support.

Advisory Team

Assemble a team of professionals to help you analyze your situation and provide suggestions. The team may include your veterinarian, nutritionist, agronomist, lender, accountant, attorney, and Extension Educator. Have these professionals come together to review your past performance, present situation, and goals for the near and short-term. Each professional brings a different perspective to the meeting based on his or her experiences and can be a valuable resource to analyze, answer questions, and provide recommendations.


What are your plans for the short-term and long-term? What Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Rewarding, and Timed (SMART) goals will get you where you want to be? Do other members of your family share the same vision?

What if you decide to exit the dairy business? Do you have a written exit plan? There is life after exiting the business. Talk to your attorney and accountant about the sale and tax liabilities.

Seek Professional Help

There are trained counselors in or near your community available to help. These professionals provide confidential counseling and can suggest options to best manage your situation. Names of counselors available in your area are available by contacting your physician, local health department, pastor, or conducting an online search. Do not be ashamed to seek help!


The items presented here are not going to increase milk prices or lower input costs. However, understanding your mindset, assembling an advisory team, developing a plan, and, if necessary, reaching out to use the services of professional counselors can help you better understand your situation and make well-informed decisions.


Ohio State University Extension Dairy Team, publications available at: https://dairy.osu.edu/

Helping Farm Men Under Crisis, Dr. Larry Tranel, Dairy Specialist, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Market Reality, Stress, and Grief, Dr. Fred Hall, Dairy Specialist, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

How to Cultivate a Productive Mindset, Michigan State University Extension.


This article was originally published in the Farm and Dairy, February 28, 2019

Camp Nurses Needed

Canter’s Cave 4-H Camp is in need of new Camp Nurses! We have several wonderful medical professionals who volunteer to spend time helping care for our campers, but we need to have some additional outstanding humans who are willing to help. If you are interested or know someone who might be, please PM Canter’s Cave contact information so that we can discuss the requirements. See contact information below. 


Canter’s Cave Contact Information:

Farm Bill Conference

We were able to attend the Farm Bill Conference in Kansas City, Missouri and join Extension personnel from various states in learning about the 2018 Farm Bill. Members of the USDA Risk Management Agency, House Agriculture Committee, and multiple state specialists explained each title and discussed other important changes. OSU Extension will be partnering with the Farm Service Agency to conduct local training programs throughout Ohio this year. Dates for the programs to be held in Brown County and other parts of the state will be announced later this summer.


Ohio Sheep and Hay Day

Location: Jackson Agricultural Research Station, 019 Standpipe Rd., Jackson, OH 45640
Cost: $15 for Ohio Sheep Improvement Association members. $25 for non-OSIA members. Preregistration/payment is not required. Registration will be taken at the event.
Contact information: Brady Campbell, campbell.1279@osu.edu, 740-434-3252 or Christine Gelley, gelley.2@osu.edu, 740-732-5681

More information can be found on the attached flyer.


U.S. Beef Gains Full Access to Japan

U.S. Beef Gains Full Access to Japan

(Washington, D.C., May 17, 2019) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that the United States and Japan have agreed on new terms and conditions that eliminate Japan’s longstanding restrictions on U.S. beef exports, paving the way for expanded sales to the United States’ top global beef market. Last week, on the margins of the G-20 Agriculture Ministerial Meeting in Niigata, Japan, Secretary Perdue met with Japanese government officials and affirmed the importance of science-based trade rules. The new terms, which take effect immediately, allow U.S. products from all cattle, regardless of age, to enter Japan for the first time since 2003.

“This is great news for American ranchers and exporters who now have full access to the Japanese market for their high-quality, safe, wholesome, and delicious U.S. beef,” Secretary Perdue said. “We are hopeful that Japan’s decision will help lead other markets around the world toward science-based policies.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that this expanded access could increase U.S. beef and beef product exports to Japan by up to $200 million annually. The agreement is also an important step in normalizing trade with Japan, as Japan further aligns its import requirements with international standards for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).


In December 2003, Japan banned U.S. beef and beef products following the detection of a BSE-positive animal in the United States. In December 2005, Japan restored partial access for U.S. beef muscle cuts and offal items from cattle 20 months of age and younger. In February 2013, Japan extended access to include beef and beef products from cattle less than 30 months of age.

In April 2017, Japan eliminated its age-based BSE testing on domestic Japanese cattle, paving the way for similar age-based restrictions to be lifted on negligible BSE-risk trading partners, including the United States. On January 15, 2019, Japan’s Food Safety Commission (FSC) concluded eliminating the age restriction for beef from the United States, Canada and Ireland posed a negligible risk to human health. Based on the FSC risk assessment, Japan began consultations with the United States to revise its import requirements in order to align with the BSE guidelines of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

The new terms and conditions will be posted May 20 to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Export Library and the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Export Verification Program web page.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

Weed Identification Class Wraps Up MGV’s Monthly Seminars

On May 16, James Morris taught participants how to identify weeds by using various plant characteristics and online tools. The presentation included multiple steps of identifying plant characteristics such as; ligules, auricles, leaf arrangements, and much more. Later, the class used this information to work through specific examples of weed identification and to use various online resources.