University of Missouri Extension

M181, New February 2012

Dairy Grazing: Selecting the Right Forage

Small grains

Cool-season grasses

The small grains, primarily wheat and rye, are used extensively in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas for winter pasture for stocker calves, but they can fit into pasture systems in Missouri as well. If planted around Sept. 1, wheat or rye will produce enough forage for an initial grazing by late November under normal conditions. Wheat and rye continue to grow through the winter, although they grow slowly during cold spells. Rye generally produces 30 to 60 percent more forage than wheat. In a vegetative state, small grain pasture is often more than 20 percent crude protein and 23 to 28 percent acid detergent fiber. Wheat and rye remain in a vegetative state until mid- to late March; as a result, forage quality is fairly constant from November through late February. Rye matures three to four weeks earlier than wheat and thus is hard to manage for high-quality feed after March. In addition, small grain pasture is susceptible to trampling damage under muddy conditions.


Yield distributionYield distribution of small grainsin Missouri.

Seed head
Seed head

Collar region
Collar region

M181 Dairy Grazing: Selecting the Right Forage | University of Missouri Extension

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