HUTCHINSON, Kan. - Drought conditions that stretched through the Plains for several years cut hay and forage supplies for livestock, but recent rain and snow may help boost prospects for producers, a Kansas State University agronomist said.
"With the conditions of the last several years, many producers have had problems getting adequate hay and grazing production from pastures," said K-State Research and Extension agronomist Vic Martin.
"Recent winter precipitation provides an opportunity for producers who need a quick supply of forage from spring pasture, silage, or high-quality hay for next fall and winter. Spring oats may be an option for producers in this situation."
The USDA reported that U.S. hay stocks had dropped to an 18-year low of 96.4 million tons as of Dec. 1, 2006. Stocks fell by 8 percent since Dec. 1, 2005.
The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service rated hay and forage supplies at 51 percent very short to short, 48 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus as of Feb. 4, 2007. Hay was in short supply throughout the state, and feed supplies were short in western and southern areas.
But Martin, who is a grazing systems specialist based at K-State's South Central Experiment Field in Hutchinson, said that while best suited for hay or silage, oats can also provide high-quality pasture in April and May, until other grazing sites are available.
When properly stored, oats can also provide high-quality hay for next fall and winter.
Martin provided tips for producers who are considering using oats as pasture:
"Oats may be successfully planted no-till," Martin said, "however growth and vigor are typically greater where pre-plant tillage is used."
In either case, a fine, firm seedbed is necessary for optimal production and winter annual weeds should be controlled either with tillage or with a burn-down herbicide prior to planting.
"Herbicides are available, although many are not permitted under forage production," the agronomist said. "Before using any herbicides, producers should always check the label."
More information about spring oats is available at county and district K-State Research and Extension offices and on the Web site www.oznet.ksu.edu. Click on Publications and search for MF 1072 and SRP 806.
SOURCE: K-State Research and Extension news release.