Skip to content

Tips For Planting Winter Annuals For Livestock, Wildlife

          By Lance Newman

(Editor’s Note: Lafayette County Extension Service agent Lance Newman is filling in until a new ARN agent is hired in Yalobusha County.)
Oh wow!  When I saw the picture of me in the paper, I remembered the hair I had back then (even though it wasn’t much).  I guess I really should update my MSU picture.
This past Thursday we had a county poultry show in Lafayette County and Susan Schroyer from Yalobusha County also participated with us and did an outstanding job.  Hopefully, we will be able to go to the Mississippi State Fair and continue to show the chickens along with our other animals.
I know many of you are planning to plant winter annuals for livestock and your food plots for wildlife.  Here are some things to think about before doing so. Try not to make these or other mistakes so you can have a successful fall/winter/spring grazing season with your cool season forages.

Ten Reasons For Stand Failures With Winter Annuals
1.  Weather –  This is something that we cannot control, so work with it the best you can.  Be ready to plant when conditions are right, have land properly prepared, and have equipment in good working order.
2.  Seed –  Use seed of a known source and quality from a reputable dealer.  Make sure legume seed is inoculated.
3. Fertilization – Apply fertilizer according to soil test recommendations.  A soil test is extremely important because you want to apply only what you need and only in the amount it is needed.  Applying the wrong thing can cost you money in different ways.  Buying the wrong thing or too much or too little of it is one way.  Another way is the poor results you get from land that has unbalanced nutrient values.
4.  Low pH –  The general recommendation for good winter annual forage production is a soil pH of 5.8 to 6.5 so make sure you are in that range.  If not, apply the amount of lime according to soil test recommendations.
5.  Wrong planting date –  In a prepared seedbed in our part of the state, planting should take place starting toward the middle of September.  This will not expose the young plants to excessive heat, armyworm attacks (hopefully), or competition from summer grasses.  Over seeding should begin around the first of October.
6. Wrong seeding rate –   Mississippi State University Extension recommends about 35 pounds of ryegrass, 4 bushels alone or 3 bushels with ryegrass of oats, and 2 bushels of wheat alone or 1-½ bushels with ryegrass for winter plantings.
7.  Wrong planting depth –  Planting too deep can prevent emergence or cause weak seedlings.  Planting too shallow can expose germinating seed to harsh conditions.  A rule of thumb is: a given type of seed should be planted no deeper than eight times its diameter.
8.  Insects –  Watch carefully for them.  If any are observed, have them identified, and then apply recommended control.
9.  Excessive stubble – If you are over seeding, research has shown that summer grass stubble needs to be down to one inch or shorter to get maximum production.  Close grazing, clipping, or tillage may be required to get it to that level.
10.  Grazing too early –  Grazing too early can damage your stand.  On a prepared seedbed, the forage needs to be 8 to 12 inches tall before grazing is allowed.

Leave a Comment