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Summer Annuals

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Date:                 May 12, 2020
Agent:               Damon Pollard

This is Damon Pollard, Livestock agent with The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service – Burke County Center. Today’s topic is Summer Annuals.

Cool-season grasses, such as tall fescue and Orchardgrass predominate our pastures and hay fields in Burke County. These grasses are productive during spring and fall, but become semi-dormant during the summer months. Forage needs during summer can be met by using summer annuals such as sorghum-Sudan grass hybrids, and pearl millet.

Sorghum-Sudan hybrids are generally higher yielding than pearl millet. With the introduction of Brown Mid-Rib varieties, producers can be assured of a more palatable product that has a higher digestibility. BMR hybrids have been bred to have a reduced lignin content, and these varieties exhibit a brown rib down the middle of the leaf. There are many management concerns with sorghum-Sudan grass hybrids, such as nitrate poisoning and prussic acid poisoning, which require special attention. These grasses are better suited to ruminants and should never be used for horses. Sudex should be planted at 45lbs/acre broadcast, and 30lbs./acre drilled, between April 20 and July 1.

Pearl millet can be used for horses and provides excellent forage, though not as high yielding as Sudex. It has a higher leaf to stem ratio, and is generally more palatable. Pearl millet can be grazed once it reaches 12 inches in height, while Sudex should be grazed after reaching 18 inches in height.

Pearl millet and Sorghum-Sudan grass hybrids fill a niche in our cool-season grass forage system by providing quality forage throughout the summer. So consider planting a summer annual forage now to provide your livestock reliable forage this summer.

This is Damon Pollard, Livestock agent with The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service – Burke County Center. If you would like more information, call us at 439-4460.