Planting spring oats and turnips to extend the grazing season
Most producers plant spring oats in spring. However, spring oats can be planted in late summer as well for fall and early winter grazing. Spring oats will die out after the first hard freeze in the mid 20’s.
Oats are a high-quality forage, almost as good as wheat. Since oats do not have awns, cattle can graze them easily.
Is it possible to plant oats and turnip at the same time? The answer is yes. Some wildlife hunters plant oats and turnips for their deer food plots in the fall. Producers can use the same concept for beef grazing in the fall.
Forage turnip is one of the forage brassicas (others include forage rape, turnip, and kale) and has very high nutritive value with 24 - 25% crude protein in leaves and 16-18% crude protein in the roots. Forage turnip has high moisture content, so it’s not suitable for hay. The low fiber and high moisture content of forage turnip can cause diarrhea in livestock, so it is recommended that animals have free choice of dry hay or dry forage along with the turnips. Oats can provide some fiber in the growing mix, but not much when the oats are very young.
Oats and turnip can be planted at the same time using a grain drill with a second, small seed box for turnip seed. If a small seed box isn’t available, the turnips can be broadcast ahead of oat drilling. The soil disturbance from the drill is generally enough to get the turnip started after a rain. The seeding rate for oats is 120 pounds per acre. For turnip, the seeding rate is 2 pounds per acre.
The ideal planting depth for oats is 1 to 1 ½ inch. The ideal planting depth for turnips is ½ inch. A mixture of oats and turnips should be planted ½-inch deep.
Turnip is more winterhardy than spring oats, and can continue to grow into winter while maintaining its greenness even under snow cover. To have more growth, about 50 lbs nitrogen per acre can be applied at planting. Both oats and turnips can accumulate high nitrates so forage should be tested prior to grazing. Having dry roughage available can help dilute the nitrate levels in fresh, grazed oat/turnip forage. Samples can be submitted for analysis through the local county Extension office.
Potential yield for a fall-planted oats and turnip mixture might be 2 to 3 tons dry matter tons per acre. For spring oats alone, it would be about 1 to 2 tons dry matter per acre. Depending on the soil moisture condition, producers can start grazing about 6 to 8 weeks after oats and turnips are planted.
Figure 1. Oats and turnip pasture. Photo by Doug Shoup, K-State Research and Extension.
Doo-Hong Min, Forage Agronomist
DeAnn Presley, Soil Management Specialist
Kraig Roozeboom, Cropping Systems Agronomist
Doug Shoup, Southeast Area Crops and Soils Specialist