Tips for Timing Pasture Forage Planting

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Forage Tips

Planting Pasture Forages Now: Best time of the Year


  • Fertilize and lime cool-season grasses (Fescue, Orchardgrass)
  • Now is the BEST time of year to plant cool-season grasses through Oct. 25th.
  • Plant cool-season legumes such as ladino clover, red clover, alfalfa into tall fescue sods. Use insecticide.
  • Keep the grazing pressure on the summer grasses and completely use them before grazing cool-season forages.
  •  Watch for fall insects (armyworms, grasshoppers, crickets) on established and seedling stands of forages.
  • Plant winter annuals (oats, rye, ryegrass, etc.) on prepared seedbeds for earliest fall grazing. No-till planting can be successful, but will not usually be ready to graze as soon after planting as on prepared seedbed.
  • Overseed or no-till winter annual legumes or grasses onto summer perennial grass after they have been closely grazed. Planting early may require that herbicides be used to suppress the existing grass growth.
  • Make a winter feed supply inventory so deficiencies can be avoided now (by purchasing hay or planting more winter pasture).


  • Finish using summer grasses before grazing the cool-season ones.
  • Plant cool-season legumes such as ladino clover and alfalfa into tall fescue sods by Oct. 25 (piedmont, coastal plains). On average, the seeding rate of drilled seed for fescue/orchardgrass is 10 lbs. fescue with 3 lbs. of ladino clover, make sure to inoculate the clover seed.
  • Overseed warm-season grasses with winter annuals.
  • Be wary of prussic acid poisoning in animals grazing sudan and sorghum-sudans after the first few frosts.
  • Sample soils to be overseeded or planted next spring so the limestone can be applied early enough to react. Apply limestone to pastures with pH below 5.8 to be planted.

Rules of  Thumb

  • Cows generally eat 1.5 to 3.3% of their body weight in forage per day, depending on the digestibility and availability of forage.
  • Stocker animals should be encouraged to consume >3% of body weight per day to maximize gain;  this is about 15 pounds dry matter (DM) for a 500- pound animal.
  • On a year-round basis, it takes about 4.5 tons DM to feed a cow-calf pair.
  • The average yield per acre for pasture or hay is about 2.5 to 4 tons DM;  therefore, it takes 1.25 to 2 acres to produce the annual feed requirements for a cow-calf pair for 12 months.
  • On most farms, consider growing 20 to 35% of the forage acreage in warm-season grasses (bermudagrass, pearl millet, etc.) as a way to even out the monthly production in feed.

For more information about forages and livestock, call 919-496-3344, or via email to Martha Mobley, Extension Ag Agent.