About fodder crops
Other fodder crops: Here’s the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service list of the 10 major fodder crops. These crops “are important in a rotation,” according to the agency. Some farmers replace wheat and corn with those and other cereals, as well as perennial hay (which the agency says “could be used for grazing animals, but is also available for use as a pre-fodder crop).”
There’s also feed wheat and corn, which is a grain used as animal feed. The USDA says corn crops and feed wheat crops can provide “extra dietary protein,” but some corn varieties are more drought-resistant, and the corn crop in the US has grown substantially with climate change.
The USDA also keeps a tally of major crops that can produce fodder for livestock if crop prices and prices for that grain are low or too low. About 40 percent of the world’s staple crops are used to feed livestock, but global harvests have already fallen to near-record lows in several countries.
But if they’re high enough and grain prices are high enough, farmers worldwide can grow fodder crops like fodder wheat, fodder corn, fodder rapeseed, and fodder sorghum. Rice, peanuts, sugar, and sorghum grow well as fodder crops, but these are also vulnerable to drought in dry climates, as are most grain crops.
Fodder crops have another important role. “Fodder crops, particularly cereals, are important in a fodder cycle to provide additional grain for crop fodder or provide a meal for a grazing animal,” the USDA says. “Cereals used for fodder can be stored or processed as hay, corn, or dried or powdered grains.” This provides additional fodder if grain prices and grain prices aren’t high enough.
So what are the best fodder crops to grow?
Best for winter and spring: “Winter wheat is a drought-resistant crop that can be grown throughout the United States during autumn, winter, and spring, and can be used as fodder for livestock in much of the winter and spring when grain prices are low,” the USDA says. This “can provide additional nutrition to the livestock when grain prices are low,” and maybe useful for raising livestock in areas with limited or no winter crop production.
Fodder wheat can also grow in dry environments. The USDA describes the crop as a type of wheat that can grow in many areas with little or no winter crop production. It grows well in sandy and rocky soil and can also grow in cooler and wetter climates.
For winter and spring, sorghum can be a good choice. In contrast to winter wheat, sorghum has the ability to grow in a broad range of climates, according to the USDA.
Best for summer and fall: “Summer and fall are prime growing seasons in the Southern and Southeastern United States, and can provide fodder crop production throughout most of the summer and fall,” the USDA says.
Cereal grains can be grown in a variety of climates. For example, the USDA says that barley grows in winter and spring, but “recoveries in summer and fall may not be as good as summer and spring.” Corn, like barley, can recover after winter, but corn’s winter recovery falls between spring and summer, while barley’s tends to be during spring and summer.
Whole wheat can be grown in summer. The USDA says the plant prefers cooler temperatures. In fact, during harvest season, there is more fodder grain for livestock than grain, according to the USDA. Wheat crops aren’t stored for summer feeding but are only available for harvest during spring and fall.
So corn and sorghum are good choices for summer and fall, but it’s not clear which is better. Farmers may have to choose depending on the price of grain and the temperature of the growing season. However, these crops can be valuable when raising livestock in areas with little or no summer crop production.
Best for winter and spring: In areas with little to no grain production in the summer or spring and with lots of grain in the winter and spring, fodder crops like oats and barley provide food for livestock.
Best for summer and fall: The USDA says that soybeans and sorghum are also good for summer and fall. According to the USDA, in areas with hay crops in the summer, soybeans and sorghum are good crops to grow.
Fodder crops can be good for organic farming because they don’t require nutrients, pesticides, or fertilizer treatment for use as fodder. That can be important for farmers who are concerned about contamination from pesticide and fertilizer runoff.
What about those pesky weeds?
Not all crops are good for feeding livestock. In particular, certain crop pests can be more of a problem for livestock than fodder crops. Those crops include
So-called “fodder crops” can be used to feed animals, but if you have many crops, they can be too much. That’s why farmers sometimes have to limit the number of crops they grow.
In addition, crops cultivated and used to feed animals could have “surplus fodder” that is left over. The USDA says that it’s sometimes necessary to harvest and store this excess during the winter, including leftover grains and crops. This leftover material could likely be consumed by livestock or could be useful for storing animal feed for spring and summer feeding.
However, it can be hard for farmers to estimate exactly how much extra grain or fodder crop is left over. It’s also possible some of this extra could end up being fodder, but that depends on the overall quality of the crop.
In general, farmers should think about what they can grow during the year. The USDA says that farmers should know the number of crops they can produce for use in the winter, fall, spring, and summer. They should also consider what crops will yield the most food during each period.
What do we eat when our crops are gone?
Fodder crops are useful during the fall, winter, and spring. If there isn’t enough to feed livestock during these periods, farmers have to feed those animals for winter, which could be expensive.
However, farmers who grow more fodder crops can get in touch with their local farm supply stores to find out when they will run out. It’s also important for farmers to think about how they can use leftover crops for fodder and harvest for extra production when fodder is plentiful.
Fodder crops have little value to farmers in the summer, but they’re good for farmers who need crops during summer and fall. According to the USDA, they’re also a good choice for farmers in colder climates who want to grow more crops in the winter and fall.