Managing Warm Season Annuals

Warm-season annuals, such as sudangrass, sorghum X sudan-grass hybrids, and millets, are useful forages for summer graz-ing because they flourish when cool season grasses experience “summer slump”. When deciding which of these forages might fit into your grazing system, recognizing the different traits and common uses of each is important. 

Partridge Pea or Chamaecrista Fasciculata

Partridge pea is a warm-season legume commonly used in wildlife seed mixes. Conservation Reserve Program lands are often seeded with these wildlife mixes. Partridge pea provides good nutrition and cover for birds and other wildlife. The current drought has resulted in the opening of many CRP lands for livestock foraging and many producers have questions about the safety of feeding partridge pea to livestock. 

Weed of the Month: Nodding Thistle

Other names: Nodding Thistle

Life Cycle: Biennial or winter annual; only reproduces by seed.

Forage of the Month: Corn

Corn is one of our most productive forages with the potential to produce more than seven tons of dry matter per acre. Few annual crops can compare to corn in terms of yield (dry matter per acre) and cost (per pound of gain). Grazing fully matured, standing corn during the winter months has proven to be a successful tool to extend the grazing season. It will help reduce feed costs as well as the investment in harvest. Winter grazing of corn typically occurs from mid-November to the end of December or later, depending on the amount of corn available.


During the hot summer months adding warm-season annuals to a grazing system can provide a high quality forage when cool-season grasses and legumes decrease in production and quality. One available warm-season annual that can be used in Kentucky is millet. Adding millets can reduce or end the need for feeding stored feeds, overgrazing of cool-season grasses when they are in the “summer slump”, and can increase field stocking density. Millets are small-seeded, fast-growing summer annual grasses used for hay, pasture, and silage.

Warm Season Perennials

Cattle graze switchgrassGrazing warm-season perennials can be beneficial throughout the hot summer months. These forages have rapid growth rates during June, July and August while fescue and other cool-season forages exhibit limited growth.

What is Holistic Grazing Management?

A group of Kentucky producers and county agents had the opportunity to visit Greg Judy’s farm last month. Judy runs a unique cow/calf operation near Harrisburg, Missouri. He explained that he learned these methods from Allan Savory who began holistic management while raising livestock in South Africa. After visiting Judy’s farm, I wanted to know: what is holistic management?

Suggested Grazing Heights

Grazing at too low of a height causes overgrazing and decreases stand productivity and longevity. The general recommendation is to remove livestock once pastures are grazed down to an average height of 3 to 4 inches. Although, in pastures with mixed species, it is best to follow this recommendation to avoid overgrazing and reducing desirable species, ideal grazing height can vary depending on the forage species. Below is a table with the recommended height to remove animals from a pasture:


The Importance of Shade and Water

Heat stress in cattle is an issue that all Kentucky cattle farmers face during the summer months. The high temperatures and humidity that are common to Kentucky are the main cause of heat stress. Other causes include direct radiation and low air movement. Endophyte infected fescue, which is found in the majority of Kentucky pastures, is another source as it increases body temperatures. Heat stress can significantly decrease performance of dairy and beef cattle.