Forage Sorghum and Sudangrass: Two Alternatives for Livestock and More

Steve Sick

May 06, 2020

As farmers look at ways to diversify their operations, sorghum often comes up as a cost-effective alternative for shaking up the crop rotation. 

And if you’re specifically looking at options for silage, grazing and more, forage sorghum and sudangrass may provide opportunities for you to save on input costs while allowing you to take advantage of marginal acres and limited water resources.

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Grow forage sorghum for efficient silage production

Forage sorghum is a tall plant—usually growing to heights of 8-12 feet—that generates a great deal of biomass. Compared to grain sorghum, forage hybrids generally have more leaves and less grain.

These qualities contribute to making forage sorghum a great option for farmers looking at livestock feeding opportunities. 

Production of forage sorghum for silage requires significantly less water than corn silage. And, in many cases, forage sorghum silage is comparable to corn silage—both in terms of production and quality. 

If you’ve grown sorghum before or are exploring planting it this crop year, you’re probably aware of the diverse array of hybrids available. The biggest considerations in selecting forage sorghum hybrids for your farm are:

  1. Yield potential

  2. Maturity

  3. Overall quality

  4. Cost

Some forage sorghum hybrids have the Brown Mid-Rib (BMR) gene, which can translate to higher fiber digestibility and better forage quality. Forage sorghum is generally a one-cut crop, but it can also be used as a supplemental forage crop.

Enjoy increased versatility with sudangrass

Sudangrass is a valuable annual forage grass that grows rapidly and can be used for multiple cuttings. Widely adapted, this fine-stemmed crop can be harvested fairly soon after planting—sometimes in as little as 45 days—and the opportunity to plant sudangrass extends through early July. 

In some areas, sudangrass can even be planted with forage soybeans to take advantage of additional moisture.

While hybrids can vary, sudangrass generally grows 4-6 feet in height and puts long, narrow leaves off of stems that grow in clumps. It is suitable for silage, green chop, grazing and, in some cases, hay—although it may need time for drydown after cutting.  

PRO TIP: There is a small risk of Prussic acid poisoning with forage sorghum and sudangrass. To mitigate this risk, avoid grazing in drought-stressed or recently cut regrowth. Wait 14 days after frost for grazing or cutting. 

Planning on planting sorghum acres this year?

If you’re exploring planting sorghum this spring, we can help you determine which hybrids might work best for your operation. Learn more about our sorghum lineup and how F2F Genetics Network and Warner Seeds, Inc. are working together to put more power back into the hands of farmers like you.


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Steve Sick

May 06, 2020