Malatya Haber Consider spring oats for forage
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Consider spring oats for forage

By Daren D. Redfearn

OSU Associate Professor, Forage and Pasture Management

There are currently few opportunities remaining to produce late-winter to early-spring forage if you did not plant wheat pasture, annual ryegrass, or fall-fertilized tall fescue. One option to consider that may offer some hope for relief is spring-planted oat. Oat can be planted in late winter through early spring for pasture or hay. Even though there is substantial risk involved with this strategy due to weather, insects, and diseases, it may offer some help for increasing a short forage supply. The primary considerations for success are that is must be drill-planted on a prepared seedbed when the opportunity arises and managed accordingly.

There is not a wide selection of oat varieties available, but those varieties for use in the southern USA are preferable to northern USA varieties. Feed oat has been successfully used and can provide excellent nutrition for many classes of livestock. However, many of these have not been tested as seed oat and may contain weed seeds (noxious weed seeds in particular), have unknown seed germination, and foreign material. Feed oat sources are usually relatively cheap, but they are rarely a wise purchase. Oklahoma state seed law requires that seed being sold for planting purposes have a tag with a recent test result for germination, weed seed, and foreign material.

The window for spring-planted oat is between Feb. 15 and March 10 with an optimum planting time during the last full week of February. If dry weather and above freezing temperatures occur in late January and early February, the planting date can be shifted closer to Feb. 15. However, if conditions are wet, damp, and cold during late January and early February, then planting may be delayed until early March. Oat should be drill-planted on a conventionally prepared seedbed at a seeding rate of 80 to 100 pounds of seed per acre. Seeding depth can be as deep as 1 1âÑ2 inches, but a depth of only 1âÑ2 to 3âÑ4 inch will increase the rate of emergence, establishment, and forage production potential. Forage production potential from a spring-planted oat crop will average 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of forage per acre. Based on the forage production of spring-planted oat, planning should include N fertilizer at a rate off 60 to 75 pounds actual N per acre after establishment.

Spring-planted oat harvested for hay, should be cut at early heading. Once the seedheads begin to emerge, there will be no appreciable increase in yield. Likewise, once the seedheads begin to emerge, there will be a substantial decrease in nutritive value due to the accumulation of stem tissue and also leaf loss. For grazing, oat plants should a minimum of 6 inches tall. Spring- planted oat matures quite rapidly once the spring temperatures began warming. Each acre of spring-planted oat should to provide between 35 and 60 days of grazing for a mature beef animal. Growing animals (750 pounds) can be stocked at approximately 1.5 animals per acre for 60 days.

Do not consider spring-planted oat to be the fool-proof solution to remedy a short forage supply. There are substantial risks involved due to weather, insects, and diseases. With planning and a little luck, a spring-planted oat crop may add some additional forage to an already short or non-existent forage supply.


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