The dry, hot spring has me worried about another drought and our need to produce lots of forage for the fall.
I know it’s the height of the corn planting season, but we might consider adding some forage sorghum to our portfolio as a double-crop after first cutting hay or small grain silages, especially on average or below average soils or where corn can’t be double-cropped.
Last year we planted our forage sorghum trials no-till on June 2-3 and harvested on Oct. 11 with yields ranging from 14.7 to 20.0 tons per acre (35 percent DM) depending on the height and maturity of the entries.
With the BMR lines we achieved 30 hr NDFD levels of 54 to 58 percent. This yield was more than some of our corn trials yielded under the drought conditions and when you add the yield of the first crop in a double-crop scenario, it could be a good program for less than ideal acres.
Sorghum is also a lot cheaper to grow…this Missouri budget compared corn and grain sorghum and showed about $195 per acre lower costs than for corn http://agebb.missouri.edu/mgt/budget/crop12.pdfand would be roughly comparable for forage sorghum and corn silage.
Forage sorghum genotypes vary from Brachytic Dwarf BMR lines, to medium height conventional and BMR lines to tall high yielding biomass energy lines.
They can also be cut at the boot stage in August if a summer forage seeding is desired.
For farms where spreading the workload is an issue, these are planted following the corn planting rush and are harvested at the end of the chopping season, and provide some opportunity for an early summer manure application.
The dwarf lines are very lodging resistant and leafy. Sorghums seem to have a good fit as a low cost supplement to a corn silage based ration, and with the BMR trait, the fiber digestibility is improved over conventional sorghums.
Despite their potential, they do require some management to optimize yields, with timely planting, weed control and some attention to basic soil fertility.
Often this crop gets neglected and yield suffers as a result, so don’t shortchange this crop on management if you give it a try.
(If feed supplies get short this winter, there are some things to consider to stretch them out. Examples can be found at http://southeastfarmpress.com/livestock/cattlemen-stretching-high-priced-feed-supplies and http://southeastfarmpress.com/livestock/corn-stalk-residue-stretches-feed-dollar).