Optimizing Oats for Use as Dairy Forage

This piece comes to us from the ARS's Dennis O'Brien and the AgResearch magazine. Wisconsin dairy producers are increasingly adopting a practice that makes economic and environmental sense: raising oats in the fall as forage for their cattle. Dairy producers plant the oats in early to mid-August and either allow them to be grazed through late November or harvested as silage in early November for later use. The strategy allows production of an additional forage crop before winter. The oats also “scavenge” excess nitrogen from the soil, and the plant residues enrich the soil. Fall oats also are usually planted after the harvest of cereal grains, such as wheat or cereal rye, or in fields where alfalfa, which is harvested every 28 days, has been killed off. “Either scenario gives producers a window in late summer that’s important from an environmental perspective, because it allows them to spread manure stored in reservoirs onto their fields during a time period other than the spring or fall hauling opportunities bracketing corn production,” says Agricultural Research Service (ARS) dairy scientist Wayne Coblentz, who is with the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center and is based in Marshfield, Wisconsin. Dairy producers, however, need guidance on when to

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One thought on “Optimizing Oats for Use as Dairy Forage

  1. We’ve done this for many years now, while forage oats are more costly than grain oats or bin run oats, forage varieties yield as least an additional ton/acre.

    August moisture is essential to get quick germination.

    May be variety specific, but will grow well into fall and can sustain temperatures into the mid to low 20’s.

    I like to mix in a brassica with the oats.

    Have never had a forage test come back in less than 70% TDN.

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