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Wheat as Forage

 

Growing wheat for pasture can provide high-quality forage for up to four months of the year.  The longevity and quality of production depends on factors such as environmental conditions, animal stocking rate, variety and fertility program.

Well-drained soils that provide a solid footing for grazing animals during wet periods are essential to the success of any winter pasture program.  Seeding of the wheat can be by planting on a prepared seedbed, overseeding an existing sod, or broadcasting a mix of seed and fertilizer.  When used as a dual purpose crop (grazing and grain), a seeding rate of 2 bushels per acre is recommended to ensure the proper stand density for grazing.

Total production of wheat ranges from 1 to 3.5 tons of forage per acre on a dry matter basis.  Since wheat pasture is often 75 to 95% water, cattle placed indefinitely on wheat benefit from supplemental high quality hay.  Wheat should never be grazed closer than 2 inches and should not be grazed until it reaches an initial height of 4 to 8 inches.  When wheat is used as a dual purpose crop, most of the spring growth must be allocated toward grain production and cattle should be removed at the appearance of the first internode for acceptable grain production.

The most efficient method for using wheat pasture is rotational or strip grazing.  These forms of grazing management improve forage use efficiency over continuous grazing by 15 to 20%. short grazing periods (two hours) stimulate milk production in dairy cows almost as much as all-day grazing on winter pastures.  Rotational grazing is critical on wheat pastures for the forage to accumulate extra growth during each warm period.  Wheat should also be well rooted and well-tillered before grazing begins.

 

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Last Date Modified 01/4/2006
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Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station
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