Corn and soybean cover crops can provide fall forage for cattle

Corn and soybean crops planted on prevented acres not planted this spring may be used to provide forage for cattle this fall.


This years wet spring has caused many farmers to fail to make quality hay for cow herds. But cover crops planted on bare crop ground may be used to produce quality forage.


Earlier regulations on unplanted cropland restricted using cover crops for feed. For 2019 however, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has relaxed rules on double use. Farmers can still collect prevented planting insurance payments when harvesting forage after Sept. 1.

Rules now allow planting corn and soybeans for cover. 


Corn offers nutritious high-tonnage forage while soybeans offer less quantity, but higher quality hay.


Cover crops cannot be planted for grain or seed. Extended prevented planting deadlines expired July 15. Now, planting times become critical for those cover crops.


Ray Massey, a University of Missouri extension economist, emphasizes that first steps are to check with local USDA office and your local insurance agent to learn what the rules are and how they must be followed. Prevented planting cover crop rules require close attention to details by farmers.


In recent years, growing cover crops has become a regular practice for many farmers. Theres more benefit than erosion protection, says Greg Luce, University of Missouri corn specialist. Cover crops also control weeds, preserve microbiotic growth in the root-zone, and help boost yields in next years cash crop.


Soybeans mowed for hay must be crimped to dry faster. Properly adjusted mower conditioners crimp soybean stems about every two inches, experts say.


Eric Bailey, Missouri state beef specialist, reacted positively to news of soybean forage: Its super hay, he says. Compare it to alfalfa. Legume hay gives nutrient balance to offset bad hay weve baled and bagged this year.


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