Cover Crop Challenges

A mix of spring forage barely, Indian mustard, black oats, winter peas, and crimson clover was planted on April 1. Cows were put on it May 7 and pulled around June 21. At that time, the oats and barely had turned brown. The clover had just sprouted, so a burn down was not done.

50 pounds of nitrogen was applied and a mix of cow peas, sunn hemp, sorghum sudan, triticale, Japenese millet, African cabbage, forage collards, black oil sunflower, and cowpeas was drilled on July 4. There were three inches of rain in July. By August 1, the cover was about 8-10 inches tall then it completely killed off like it had been sprayed (but hadn’t). The outer 90 feet of the field were ungrazed and had the same result.


Question from Northcentral Kansas


Michael Thompson, Almena, KS

These mixes were probably not the best for a grazing scenario.  If I was to design a spring grazing mix, it would be inexpensive and contain: spring peas, spring oats, spring barley, turnip, rapeseed or forage collard. Many times in the past few years, spring seeding is risky because you might not be able to get in enough grazing days. On our operation, we are moving to a fall planting of triticale or rye, winter peas, turnip, rapeseed, and forage collards. Some winters the diversity makes it through; some winters it’s basically rye or triticale.  However, we can be grazing by early March most years. This allows us to terminate in May, catch a few rains, and be ready to plant a summer mix in early June. 

I would not include triticale in a summer mix as it is a cool season grass and probably used a lot of moisture which led to the failure of the summer mix. When trying to get back-to-back grazing crops, know you will probably not have enough moisture to have two excellent crops.  If you get good growth on a spring mix then you need to plan for a summer mix with more drought resistant qualities such as German millet, sunflowers, buckwheat, sunn hemp, and a small amount of forage sorghum or sorghum sudan. If you have lots of moisture when seeding the warm season, mix up the amount of forage sorghums and sorghum sudans and maybe throw in some cowpeas or mung beans.  The main things to keep in mind are what will grow and what you can afford. Many times, spending less in seed cost produces the same amount of forage and leaves more money in your pocket.

Brice Custer, WaKeeney, KS

I have seen over the last few years the allopathic affect from oats
stun and kill summer forages like sudan grasses, even millets. I have seen an oat then summer forage mix fail a lot.

I have also seen this where there the cover was hay, grazed, and/or nothing
done to kill the forages. This seems to be worse where you do not
terminate the oats.

If the summer mix to follow the oats had a large percentage of triticale in
the mix, that in my opinion, would have used up some of the moisture
and it ALSO has a very strong allopathic effect on forages.

Japanese Millet is a water loving millet (it can survive in standing water); proso and German millet are a better fit.


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