Submitted to: Experiment Station Bulletins
Publication Type: Experiment Station
Publication Acceptance Date: March 1, 2012
Publication Date: March 8, 2012
Citation: Coblentz, W.K., Bertram, M.G. 2012. Fall-grown oat forages: unique quality characteristics. Experiment Station Bulletins. Vol. 14. No. 4..
For the dairy industry, the options for producing a late-summer emergency forage crop are limited, mostly because the growing season is relatively short. Recent research has shown that oats, seeded in late-summer, can provide an excellent source of emergency forage before winter. Furthermore, fall-grown oats offers some very unique quality characteristics that dairy producers can use to their advantage, either in specific response to a forage deficit, or as a routine part of their forage management program. With fall-grown oats, the physiological process of hardening will contribute significant amounts of sugar to the forage if the oat plants are not too mature when cold weather occurs. Generally, plants should reach boot stage around October 15 in order to achieve good yields of DM coupled with desirable hardening, but this will vary with cultivar and year. The cooler growing conditions during fall also will limit deposition of lignin and maintain good fiber digestibility. These factors, coupled with the accumulation of sugars during hardening, work collectively to maintain stable estimates of TDN over relatively wide harvest windows. Grain-type cultivars mature too quickly with July planting dates and will not harden or accumulate sugar; therefore, only forage-type cultivars, such as ForagePlus, should be considered for this (early) planting strategy. For (late) mid-August planting dates, cultivar selection normally will have only minimal effects on forage quality, and yield is the primary production limitation.