The past two years, commodity prices have seen near record highs, and input costs and land prices seem to follow that same trend. It has become more important than ever to get as much production off each acre as possible. Likewise, the last few years have been rather tough for hay production, so stockpiled feed may be at an all time low, emphasizing the importance of maximizing production. One of the best ways to achieve this is through double cropping annual forages.
Double cropping has been gaining popularity over the last few years. Many producers utilize double cropping to make different types of feed in one year all from one field. It also reduces the risk involved with putting up high quality and high tonnage forage. Instead of targeting one harvest window, we are able to target multiple times in the growing season to get our forage harvested off. Yes, double cropping does require more management and time, but with that producers see a safer, higher producing output in return.
To get the most out of a double cropping system, knowing crop maturities is a must. This is even more important in a year like 2023, where it is a late spring in many areas. The ideal double cropping systems that seem to produce the most success is a winter annual planted the previous fall or a cool season crop planted as soon as possible in the spring, followed by a warm season crop planted as soon as that first crop is harvested. The tables below show expected days of growth from emergence to harvest for both cool season and warm season crops:
The expected days of growth can certainly fluctuate some depending on the year, but generally you can use these dates as a tool when designing cropping plans. If you are trying to make the best quality forage possible, lean to the early side of these dates but if your main goal is tonnage, these dates could be stretched. Every year will bring different challenges and opportunities, but based off when you are planting your first crop, you can lay out the rest of the year and estimate when you will be able to plant the second crop and hopefully push that crop up right to the first frost for the year.
If you’re looking to create the most tonnage within one year, consider a double cropping system. Reach out to anyone on our team – we can help you build the crop plan that is best for your operation!