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Winter Wheat Grazing Options

September 3, 2012
 
 

Source: University of Missouri

Recent rains have given producers hope that they will be able to plant wheat this fall. Producers may be looking to plant wheat not only for a grain crop but also to provide some fall and early spring grazing, says a University of Missouri Extension agronomy specialist.

Grazing wheat is a common practice farther west where soils are better drained and expected rainfall is less, says Pat Miller. "It can work here, but if we expect to also get a grain crop we have to limit grazing to when the field is dry or the ground is frozen. And we have to remove livestock before the wheat joints in the spring."

As tempting as it may be to graze earlier, you should delay fall grazing until plants are well established—6 to 8 inches high, she said. Small grain plants grazed before this time will likely suffer from severe defoliation and result in lower fall and spring production.

On the other hand, waiting too long will result in rank, succulent plants that are easily damaged during grazing. Stocking rate should be light enough to avoid continuous complete removal of top growth (graze to about 2-3 inches). Strip grazing will allow producers to better control grazing heights and reduce trampling.

"We also have to account for what nitrogen is removed through grazing," Miller added. "One advantage will be that many fields will have nitrogen carried over from the previous crop of corn. It is possible to test soils for residual nitrogen before deciding application rates." (For testing procedures, see the MU Extension guide "Preplant Nitrogen Test for Adjusting Corn Nitrogen Recommendations," available online and as a free PDF download at www.extension.missouri.edu/G9177.)

"Carryover of herbicide from previous crops may be of concern when planting," Miller says. Be sure to check herbicide labels and, if needed, do a bioassay before planting. A bioassay consists of collecting soil from several places in the field and planting wheat in it to see how it grows.

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