Forage Sorghum

Forage Use: Haylage

Highest producer of biomass of the summer cover crops.

Energy from sugar? We’re talking sugar cane for cows, known as silage sorghum. Energy from digestible fiber? We’re definitely talking about gene 6 BMR Forage Sorghum! BMR Gene 6 is a naturally bred-in trait and is non-GMO.

Alta brand forage sorghums offer dairy and livestock producers an alternative to corn silage and multi-cut sorghum sudans. Alta brand forage sorghums are selected for high nutritional and agronomic benefits for today’s livestock producer. The BMR 6 genetics vault sorghum into the realm of super star forages for maximum fiber digestibility and increased palatability, making escellent dairy feed. We offer forage sorghum with maturity ranges from 83 day up to 110 days. Alta offers brachytic dwarf and male sterile products, the brachytic dwarf characteristics make sorghum an agronomically sound crop. (It can stay standing up until harvest.)  Energy levels are comparable to corn and protein level is around 10 to 12%. It is more efficient than corn, much less expensive to plant than corn, as well as higher yielding than corn in the southern Midwest, additional forage sorghum vs corn comparisons.

  • Yields similar to corn silage
  • 30% less nutrient (nitrogen) requirements than corn silage
  • 30%-50% less water requirements than corn silage
  • Productive on marginal soils
  • Drought and heat tolerant, won’t shut down until 105 degrees
  • Later planting with similar tonnages as corn silage
  • Minimal mycotoxin concerns
  • No root worm or corn borer concerns
  • Reduce soil phosphorus loads
  • Less seed cost per acre than corn

Establishment

Sorghum Sudan will usually need about ten days to emerge, and then can grow 3″ to 6″ per day. A conventional or no-till drill is used for the seeding and planting depth should be 1″ to 1 1/2″.  Plant when the soil temperatures are at least 60 degrees at a rate of 25-40 lbs/Acre. Planting after a small grain crop (e.g. rye or Triticale) requires dealing with the allelopathic effects from the dying grain plants (minimum tillage or heavy liquid manure application). Weed management should be dealt with pre-planting as there are no herbicides available for Sorghum-Sudan grasses. Sowing at higher rates, 70 lbs or more, makes an excellent smother crop for fields with weed problems. Use them as part of a double crop program, to thicken up thinning alfalfa fields or to rotate out a weak or undesirable pasture. When following with a fall forage such as Italian ryegrass, alfalfa or pasture, we recommend disking the crop down in late August to early September to insure a good start for the next crop. 

Management

Sorghum Sudan will be harvested for baleage or haylage in 45 days after planting. Grazing is usually initiated a week to 10 days earlier. Growth of Sorghum Sudan is very rapid once it reaches 2 feet tall or so. Rates of 4 inches a day are common. The taller varieties (AS6401, AS6501) are mowed when they reach 38″ to 40″ tall and the dwarf (AS6402) when it reaches 32″. Residue heights are also important. The taller versions must be mowed at 5-6″ residue (above the 2nd growth node) to allow for rapid regrowth. AS6402 can be mowed at 3″ and is one reason for its popularity. These cutting heights are essential as regrowth can be almost zero if the residual is too short.  For haylage, longer chop length is needed for effective fiber. 

Fertilization Utilizes manure nutrients very well. P, K, and other nutrients similar to corn silage. Fertilizer needs are 1 to 1 1/4 units of N per growing day, i.e. 45 to 50 units for first cut and 30-35 units for each cut thereafter. Potassium, phosphorous and sulfur are also needed on most farms. All fertilizer needs are the equivalent of the needs for 100 bushel corn. Manure can be used for the original application; however, commercial N is the best source after a cutting. If manure will be used after the first cut, choose AS6401, due to its superior disease package. We usually recommend to apply manure prior to seeding. Nitrogen needs for grazed sorghum Sudan are reduced proportionally so that cows can be brought in to graze earlier without danger of nitrate (NO3) poisoning. (See article on sorghum nutrition for more on NO3 and Prussic acid plus management of the crop after freezing weather.) If crop is light green or yellowish, either not enough nitrogen is available or soil conditions are too wet.

When mowing, make a wide swath to remove water as quickly as possible. Wide swathing makes a huge difference with Sorghum Sudan. Cutting Sorghum Sudan places a lot of material on the ground. For fastest drying, use a conditioner and spread the swath as wide as possible. Use a tedder to facilitate wilt.

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