Tim Tobin started planting annuals for two reasons. First, he wanted to transition some crop fields to perennial pastures and annuals were a good first step. He also wanted to smother out the Kentucky 31 fescue in some of his pastures. He liked the results so much, that it looks like annuals will become a permanent part of his operation.
In this 5:21 video, Tim describes the mix he’s currently using, and the beneficial effects on both his soils and his cattle. The annuals fill the “summer slump,” that time of year when perennial pastures go dormant because of heat and lack of rain. He rents a corn drill from his local soil and water conservation district to plant first a warm and then a cool season mix. Then he strip grazes his annuals through the summer, giving his perennial pastures time to regrow. By fall, when temperatures cool, he has a healthy stockpile to graze through the winter.
This system is working so well for Tim that he’s changed his mind about converting some pastures to perennials. He’d originally planned to convert 25 acres, but has reduced that to 10. Check it out and see if it gives you some ideas!
What Should You Plant?
If you think this could be an option for your operation, set up a time to visit with your local soil and water conservation district staff. They can help you figure out planting equipment, timing, and mix options. Be sure to talk to them about the economics of planting annuals too, to be sure it’s the right tool for you.
Be aware that some of these very nutritious annuals can also have some downsides. Species commonly included in mixes, like sorghums and sudangrass, can accumulate nitrates and prussic acids in drought or freezing temperatures. Check out this On Pasture article for what you need to be aware of when you grow and graze annuals.
Have suggestions or questions? Add them in the comments below!