Articles on forages, animals, and grazing systems
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Extension Forage Specialist
University of Kentucky
Phone: (859) 257-3358
Fax: (859) 323-1952
Brown Midrib (BMR) Sudangrass is becoming more popular as a forage grass each year. Why are livestock owners choosing to grow the BMR varieties? This hybrid sudangrass is genetically mutated to reduce the amount of lignin present in cell walls and vascular tissue in the plant. This means increased digestion and improved fiber availability for livestock. Therefore, grazing this hybrid grass can improve animal production. There are plenty of other reasons that planting a BMR sudangrass can be beneficial.
Sudangrass is a summer annual which can be used for grazing, hay, or silage. It can be planted from late spring to early summer. This is beneficial for farmers who might experience adverse weather conditions or who’s busy schedule does not allow them to plant in a small window of time.
Because this forage grows quickly and can out compete weeds, there is usually no need for pesticide applications. In ideal conditions, grazing can start in only 35 days. During those hot summer months when many see a shortage of forages in their pastures, summer annuals like sudangrass are thriving and reduce forage deficiency issues caused by summer slump. This can lessen or end the need for supplemental hay and other feed and can protect pastures from being
over grazed during the summer months. Sudangrass can be drilled into dry lot areas or existing pastures. Erosion will be reduced and soil will be better protected.
BMR Sudangrass should be drilled to a depth of about ½ inch at 20lbs/ac PLS.
Prussic acid toxicity may be a possibility during times of stress. It is best to start grazing when grass reaches 18-30 inches. Sudangrass should not be grazed at less than 18 inches in height and should never be grazed after a frost or severe drought. A few weeks after a frost, it is safe to turn livestock out. An adequate rest period is needed after grazing or cutting.
Nitrate toxicity is also possible when grazing sudangrass. When plants accumulate high levels of nitrates from high N fertilization, manure application, or weather conditions, it is important to be aware of the herds health.
There are also BMR varieties of corn, millet, forage sorghum, and sorghum-sudan crosses. These warm season grasses can be useful to get livestock producers on pasture-based systems through the summer months. The BMR varieties can be a very beneficial forage to use in pastures for dairy or beef operations.