On our ranch, we plant oats annually for haying and grazing. It’s a great late spring/early summer forage that allows us to stockpile feed early and offers another rotation for grazing, as well.
Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension forage specialist, says more producers are trying oat pastures this spring, and while the potential is awesome, common management mistakes can hinder ranchers from getting the most out of their oat fields.
Anderson writes, “Oat pastures have increased in popularity in recent years. They can reduce problems from drought and provide fast, early grazing. Oat pastures can be very productive and last through early summer, but they also disappoint sometimes.”
He shares three tips for managing oat fields to maximize forage potential:
1. Graze early
“Oats grow rapidly,” says Anderson. “Once it gets 5-6 inches tall, it quickly can shoot up to a foot tall in almost no time. As nice as this sounds, if initial oat growth gets that tall it may not stool out, tiller, and regrow after grazing very well. So it’s important to start grazing early and to graze hard enough to keep your oats vegetative and leafy, thereby stimulating it to constantly form new tillers.”
2. Allow ample rest time
Anderson writes, “If your animals start to first graze when oats get 6-8 inches tall and they remove just half the growth, it should recover rapidly and tiller well. You probably will need to give your oats a couple weeks to regrow after this first grazing, though, before grazing again.”
3. Adjust stock rate to match regrowth
“After this first grazing stimulates tillering, keep oat regrowth between 6 and 16 inches tall using either continuous or rotational stocking,” recommends Anderson. “Begin with a light stocking rate, maybe about one animal every 2-3 acres. Then adjust animal numbers as oat growth changes. Don’t worry if a few plants head out. But if many plants get tall and approach the boot stage, either stock heavily for one last hard graze-out grazing or consider cutting for hay.”
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.