Seeding Winter Annuals
Fall is the time of the year to establish winter annuals. For wheat, seeding should be delayed until October to avoid Hessian fly infestations, but most winter annuals used for forage should be seeded much earlier. For example, cereal rye seeded in mid-August can be grazed as early as late September. The rye then provides high-quality grazing into December and continued growth the following late winter/early spring. Combining annual ryegrass with rye provides faster regrowth between grazings and a longer grazing season in the spring.
For extremely high-quality pastures, brassicas are an excellent forage crop. Brassicas include turnips, rape, kale and others. The quality of brassicas is so high though (85% TDN), added fiber is needed to slow down passage rate. Fiber can be free choice hay, but a more economical option is simply to plant cereal rye or oats with the brassicas. A popular mixture is an August planting of 1 bu/acre spring oats, 1 bu/acre cereal rye, and 4-5 lbs/acre of turnips (add 50-60 lbs actual N/acre at planting). This mixture provides high quality because of the turnips, the oats and rye provide fiber and excellent fall growth, and the rye survives the winter for early grazing next year. Winter oats usually do not survive KY winter, so spring oats are recommended. To make this mixture even better suited for pasture production make sure to plant a grazing type turnip that regrows after grazing (Purple Top turnips have good production, but do not grow back after the first grazing).