EAST LANSING, Mich. — The difficult forage growing season has continued into the summer as producers scramble to find adequate forage supplies for their livestock. Michigan State University Extension educators have been scouting alfalfa fields in both the Lower and Upper Peninsula for winterkill. Widespread damage has been reported on alfalfa stands across the Great Lakes Region. Many alfalfa fields are being harvested three weeks later than normal and yields are reported to be below average with reduced forage quality.
Many graziers in Michigan were hoping for a normal growing season to take the pressure off winter forage supplies. Unfortunately, the weather in Michigan has been cooler and wetter than normal, adding to the stress of last year and delaying the vigorous growth phase for most pastures by several weeks.
Local forage supplies are lower than normal and are being squeezed by very low supplies of forages throughout the Great Lakes Region that may heighten both demand and prices in the coming weeks and months. To help supplement the lack of forage inventories, MSU Extension is recommending producers consider planting annual forages to meet the forage needs of their livestock. Desirable characteristics, such as rapid growth, excellent drought resistance and good response to fertilizer and water, make summer annual grasses an attractive choice to use in an overall management scheme for forage production.
Summer annual grasses are used for pasture, green chop, hay and silage. Many times these annual grasses are used as emergency forage. The most common annual grasses used in Michigan are sudangrass, hybrid sudangrass, sorghum-sudangrass hybrids and forage sorghum available as normal or brown midrib varieties. Other summer annual forage grasses include teff grass, pearl millet, Siberian foxtail millet, German foxtail millet and Japanese foxtail millet.
Several seed companies were contacted in regards to availability of summer annual forage seed. They indicated that seed inventories of some forage seeds are either unavailable or may be sold out quickly due to unusually high demand or low supplies. Producers are encouraged to check with their local supplier for availability and variety characteristics as soon as possible to order their annual forage seed.
For more information, contact Phil Kaatz at email@example.com or 810-667-0341.
MSU Extension offers additional educational resources and programs to help farmers as they deal with delayed planting seasons at https://www.canr.msu.edu/agriculture/delayed-planting-resources.
— Philip Kaatz, Michigan State University Extension
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