Early spring is not too late to make the move to supplement your pastures with high-energy forage that can be grown in 60 days or less. Whether they stretch perennial pastures or winter annual small grain forage you planted this fall, spring annuals help diversify your inventory. They can also be part of a renovation program for perennial pastures. These forages thrive in straight stands or mixed and matched for optimal performance and diversity. Yields average 1-3 tons of dry matter/acre with good management and fertility.
Spring Oats come in a range of maturities, with the earliest maturing in 45-50 days and later varieties taking 60 days or more to reach flag leaf stage (Feekes stage 9.0, the ideal stage to graze or harvest high quality forage). Spring Barley has been a consistent top yielder in our research plots over several years. Spring peas make ideal companions for the small grains and provide protein. Brassicas provide leafy, high-protein forage that also canopies quickly and competes well with weeds.
Spring planted forage helps vary maturity windows as well. While winter annual small grains are generally ready to graze mid-April through mid-May (for Mid-Atlantic states), a spring annual will provide grazing on average through the month of June, helping spread out and hedge the availability of productive annual pasture. Summer annual planting shifts later, but this is often workable when followed by shorter-season annuals like sorghums and sorghum-sudan.