Annual forages are classified into three types:

  1. Cool-season, winter sensitive (spring varieties)
  2. Cool-season, winter hardy (winter varieties)
  3. Warm-season, summer annuals

Annual forages can provide rapid growth and high production with limited amounts of moisture as long as the moisture is timely. Under irrigation, annual forages provide more reliable forage production.

Annual forages offer great flexibility for managing forage supplies. They can be used to fill forage production gaps or serve as a primary forage source for grazing in spring through winter with multiple, staggered plantings of different types of annuals. Also, annual forages can be used between crop rotations as an annual forage double-crop.

Annual forage species should be selected based on the seasonal forage needs and the time of planting. The earliest spring grazing (beginning in April) can be achieved with fall planting of a winter cool-season species, such as cereal rye or triticale. Later spring grazing (beginning in May) can be gained through planting winter-sensitive cool-season species like oats in mid-March. Warm-season species, such as sudangrass, can be planted in late spring for summer grazing (beginning in July). Warm-season species also can be stockpiled for winter grazing. Oats planted in late summer produce high quality forage for late fall and early winter grazing.

Resources for Annual Forage Management