Winter crops for the cold months
Stockfarm|March 2020
The summer months have so far been mostly dry and the prospects for late summer rainfall remain uncertain. If conditions were to improve, greenfeed can be planted from February onwards. Many producers who have water available will be planting greenfeed to see their animals through the winter months.
Koos du Pisanie

Prof Chris Dannhauser, a well-known grazing specialist who specialises in winter grazing, says planting windows have been extended due to improved greenfeed cultivars. Annual crops are usually planted in February and March. However, it is not too late to plant in April and May and, due to its short growing season, crops such as stooling rye can even be planted in June.

What to plant

Prof Dannhauser equates indiscriminate planting to playing roulette. “Planting greenfeed is a fine art and a science. A variety of crops can be planted, but you need to consider each one’s traits when planning your fodder flow. During winter and spring shortages can occur in the fodder flow programme, thus necessitating supplementation.”

According to Prof Dannhauser, winter greenfeed is planted over large parts of the Eastern Free State, Southern Gauteng, North West, Mpumalanga, and Northern KwaZulu-Natal.

“Oats, stooling rye and triticale are some of the popular crops planted. The improvement of these short growing season greenfeed species and the development of new cultivars, have led to crops that can be established over a longer growing period. While several greenfeed varieties as well as winter grazing are being planted, some work better in some regions than in others,” he says.

Influence of rainfall

Prof Dannhauser explains that, in the northern parts of the country with its hot climate, winter crops can only be planted under irrigation.

Winter grazing is well adapted to parts of the North West, north-eastern Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KwaZuluNatal and the Eastern Cape, which receive rainfall of 650mm and more. In areas with rainfall of 750mm and more, perennial tall fescue can be planted successfully, but winter irrigation is recommended.

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