Alternative Forages

Turnips, Rape and Chicory

Forage shortages can and do occur in Kansas, despite good planning by producers. In response to shortages caused by hail, crop failure, drought and early freezes, producers may find it economical to use nontraditional forages. 

Rapeseed and turnips are high-quality, fast growing cool-season crops that offer good grazing potential. They can be seeded from mid-March through May for summer grazing, or June through August for fall and winter grazing. Grazing usually begins about 45 to 60 days after seeding. 

These forages have exceptionally high digestibility, protein and energy content. However, the fiber content is low so roughage must be provided. When planted immediately after wheat harvest on irrigated ground, turnips and rapeseed can make an excellent forage for livestock during the summer. 

Chicory, a member of the sunflower family, is a perennial cool-season herb which originated in Central Europe but was developed for forage production in New Zealand. It is suited to well or moderately drained soils with a pH of 5.5 or greater, and moderate to optimum soil phosphorus and potassium levels. 

Maximum life of chicory stands is about 5 to 7 years. Chicory should be grazed heavily for short periods of time to prevent plants from bolting and to extend forage productivity. A rest period of 25 to 30 days between grazings will help chicory persist and optimize performance.