This spring has seen new acres being planted back into hay after last year’s high grain prices.  Along with the new seeding alfalfa or orchard grass, a cover crop of an annual forage is usually planted.  I have planted 3 different oat varieties, and will have some beardless barley planted as well by the end of the week.  Each variety have a specific purpose and have different factors to consider before you plant.

The three varieties of oats I have planted are:

  • Texas Red
  • Everleaf
  • Cayuse

Texas Red

I was inspired to plant this variety after walking up to a stack and barely recognizing the hay as being oat hay because of how fine the stems were.   I will be putting it up in small bales and marketing it to the horse market, where thicker stemmed oats are often wasted by pickier eaters.  I planted roughly 120 lbs/acre and got some frost damage when I had two consecutive mornings of 20 degree lows.  The oats were coming up irregularly because of dry conditions and the youngest seedlings got frosted out and I reseeded.  I am expecting 3.5-4 tons/acre yield based on research online but the lower yield should be offset by higher sale prices as the palatably will surely be a hit with the horse owners.

Everleaf

This is my favorite variety so far, I had great success in a small field last year (5 tons/acre).  This variety is more frost-hardy than Texas Red and produces huge tonnage especially if grown under pivots where they can be irrigated as long as possible.  I had to shut off water early because my wheel line got stuck in the field after a last pass with large nozzles to put out as much water as possible.  Although this variety produces huge tonnage, one downside is that the stems are quite thick, which reduces palatability.  Cattle love it, but if you want to market to the horse industry, the thick stems are undesirable.  I have some Everleaf which is pivot irrigated and I am excited to see the yield on that field.

Cayuse

Cayuse oats is a multi-purpose oat that I grew before I found Everleaf.  I usually get around 4-4.5 tons/acre, and the oats have thinner stems that Everleaf, but still are somewhat thick for the horses.  This variety is extremely popular, and I planted this because my seed supplier ran out of Everleaf.  Last year I had a field that I had mixed Everleaf and Cayuse in the drill seeder and I could distinctly see the Cayuse, as it matured a week earlier than the Everleaf, and was ready to harvest while the Everleaf was still growing.  I would recommend Cayuse for ground with wheel lines and as a cover as the harvest date would be earlier and irrigating is easier as the crop matures.

 

Other Considerations

I often plant straight oats, versus as a cover crop in order to maximize yield and clean up weedy ground.  When planting as a cover crop, reduce seeding rate in order to not choke out the grass or alfalfa underneath. Remember that the main focus should be the new crop, versus the cover as a healthy new stand is the purpose, versus maximizing the cover crop yield.  Because of the dense canopy and high yield, I would be hesitant to plant Everleaf as a cover crop, but rather stick to Cayuse or even Texas Red in order to ensure that the new seeding will not be choked out.

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