Emergency Forages to Plant Yet This Year for Mechanical Harvest

July 5, 2019
Oats planted in August

Authors: Dianne Shoemaker, Mark Sulc, Bill Weiss, Sarah Noggle

With the forage shortage we are experiencing, below are listed good options to plant now and into early September for forage production yet this year. The focus of this article is for mechanical harvest. Another article lists options to consider for grazing.

For more information on establishment details and other agronomic guidelines and characteristics, click HERE.

Species for planting by mid-July


Corn plant silage

Highest single cut forage yield potential of all choices.
Silage quality will be lower than with normal planting dates.
Risk will be getting it harvested at right moisture for good fermentation.

Forage sorghum

Best harvested as silage.
Brown midrib (BMR) varieties are best for lactating cows. Conventional varieties are okay if BMR seed is not available.
Can produce 3-4 tons of dry matter/acre.
Risk of prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide gas) if frosted.

Soybean silage

Reasonable alternative to replace alfalfa forage.
Check seed treatment and herbicide labels, many restrict forage use.

Teff grass

Best suited to beef and sheep; lower yield than sorghum grasses.
Can harvest as hay or silage.


Best suited to beef and sheep; many produce a single harvest.
Best harvested as silage.
Pearl millet does not produce prussic acid after frost damage.

Mixtures of annual grasses with soybean

Best harvested as silage.
Mixtures of sorghum grasses or millets or even oats and spring triticale with soybean are feasible and can improve forage quality characteristics.


Species to plant from July 24 to mid-September


Oat or spring triticale

Can be mowed and wilted to correct harvest moisture.
Harvesting as hay can be challenging.
Earlier planting dates provide more autumn yield.

Oat or spring triticale plus winter cereals

Winter cereals (Winter rye, Winter wheat, Winter triticale) can be added to oat or spring triticale to add a forage harvest early next spring. Winter rye can also contribute a little extra autumn yield to the mixture.

Oat or spring triticale plus field peas

Field peas can improve forage quality (especially crude protein content) but will increase seed cost.

Italian ryegrass

Earlier planting dates provide more autumn yield.
Excellent forage quality in the fall.
Potential for three harvests next year starting in late April.


Note: The forage grass options all require adequate nitrogen to maximize yield potential, either as fertilizer or manure (about 60 lbs of actual available nitrogen per acre).  Check any potential herbicide restrictions from the previously planted crop. Work with your nutritionist to incorporate these alternative forages into properly balanced rations. 

For more detailed information about each of these options, refer to this Fact Sheet:

Consult the Ohio Agronomy Guide for management details, available HERE.