Prevented Planting Acres

Article taken from Dakotaland Feeds Newsletter, written by Roxanne Knock, PhD

We had a long miserable winter, and now a cold, wet and late spring. Given all of the less than ideal planting conditions and the ground we can’t get into on time, what are your options for those prevented planting acres to help generate feed or income?

You are going to have to talk to your crop insurance agent to confirm all of your options, but looking at cover crops or forage crops might be a very good option for this year. They allow you to keep the ground covered to prevent erosion and generate some feed through grazing or haying of the crop.

In order to get the full prevent plant payments, you typically are not going to be able to use for grazing or haying until after
November 1. Payments are reduced if you harvest or graze prior to that date.ayment.

Next is the question of what to plant on those acres. If you are going to harvest after November 1 st so that you can take full
advantage of the prevented planting payments, grazing is likely the best option for how to harvest those acres. That means having mix of both warm and cool season forages will provide you with both the mass and quality to get the maximum benefit. Mixes including radishes, turnips, sorghum or sudan, rye, peas, and German millet generate a lot of mass that will start to dry down by November 1st while the turnips and radishes will still be high quality and have high protein, making it a complementary mix and ideal for grazing.

If you are looking for something to harvest as hay after November 1 st , German millet is likely your best option. It will provide you with a crop that is more easily dried down for baling in cool weather as compared to a sorghum or sudan hybrid. Millet hay has run from 9-12% protein typically and around 60% TDN. It may be possible to use a millet along with a sorghum/sudan if you are looking to put up haylage, but the challenge is getting the forage put up in the right conditions at 35% dry matter and if you can’t harvest until after November 1 st , that may be a limitation because it may be too dry to adequately ferment and make high quality silage.

If you need to get something in for feed, you should talk to your insurance agent about your options and possibly taking a
reduction on your prevented planting payments in order to take a crop off for silage at the appropriate harvest time. It doesn’t do anyone a lot of good to put up silage too late and end up with really poor quality silage because that can cause some really
expensive issues like abortions in the cow herd or poor performance in your feedlot cattle. Getting crops ensiled as timely as
possible is worth something because you reduce your shrink loss on the pile because you get a better pack on it and because you can limit the mold potential by harvesting it at the right moisture rather than after the plant has dried down too much. Again, you need to work with your crop insurance agent to discuss what might best fit your needs.

Cattle are great recyclers of nutrients. When cattle consume nutrients in a pasture or on a field, they excrete those nutrients out in a more usable form. There is data that suggests that farmers spend significant amounts of time and money on residue
management from cash crops. Cattle can do that and be a profit center instead of an expense. Farmers that allow cattle to graze corn stalks, cover crops, or other crop residue benefit from having the cattle convert those nutrients into either saleable pounds or into high quality fertilizer for the next crop. And the organic matter can help improve the soil health. The big buzz word now is ‘biology’ of the soil, which is fancy words for bacteria. It seems to me that it would be helpful to have fiber-digesting bacteria from the gut of cattle laid down on some crop residue that we know is largely composed of fiber.

There are various options and suppliers for cover crop seeds or mixes. We can help direct you to one in your area that can help provide options for you to take a look at. The herbicide carryover effect is one that needs to be taken into consideration with
your decisions as well. Some may not be an issue and while others may require adjustments in seeding decisions. 

I have often said that there is more than one way to skin a cat. There are a lot of different options when it comes to planting cover crops, harvesting cover crops, and feeding cattle. If you need to do things differently than what you usually do to make
your operation work this year, then you need to do what you need to do. We can help you design a feeding program around different feedstuffs than what you have traditionally used. Our feed consultants have experience using a lot of different feeds
in a lot of different ways. It is true that you might be the first one to try something, but we can help you gather the best information possible to make the most of whatever feed you might have available. There is nothing more dangerous than an idea when you only have one. You need to be a little flexible when Mother Nature doesn’t do what we want or expect her to do and that may mean adjusting your planting decisions or harvest method, or even how you market your feed or cattle. It’s not
impossible, it just hasn’t been done yet.