Social Links Search




Sunn hemp - summer pasture option for Missouri

Sunn hemp - summer pasture option for Missouri

By Blake Jackson

Missouri's frequent droughts are prompting livestock producers to explore alternative summer pastures. Sunn hemp, a summer annual legume, is emerging as a valuable option to complement the dominant tall fescue forage.

Adaptable and Nutritious: Unlike tall fescue, sunn hemp thrives in hot, dry weather. It's a non-bloating legume with rapid growth and high regrowth potential after grazing. Its high protein content (up to 25% in leaves) makes it a nutritious feed source for cattle, sheep, and goats.

Benefits for Fescue Pastures: Sunn hemp offers several advantages for existing fescue pastures. Its shade protects fescue during the scorching summer, promoting better preservation. It also fixes nitrogen in the soil, improving fertility for the fescue. Additionally, sunn hemp can dilute the toxicity of endophyte-infected fescue.

Planting and Management: Sunn hemp is typically established in early June by no-till seeding directly into fescue stands after grazing or hay harvest. The recommended seeding rate is 25-30 pounds per acre. Grazing can begin around 45 days after planting when the plant reaches 1.5 to 3 feet tall. Early grazing ensures good forage quality throughout the season. Aim for a grazing height of 10-12 inches and allow for a 21-day rest period for optimal plant health.

Regrowth and Hay Potential: Sunn hemp demonstrates impressive regrowth abilities, sprouting new branches from grazed areas, providing a bushier plant with more leaves. Research is underway to explore sunn hemp's potential as a late-summer hay source. While traditionally discouraged due to woody stems, studies indicate acceptable hay quality when harvested late in the summer.

Seasonal Considerations: The first frost signals the end of the sunn hemp season. While the dead stems might leave pastures looking ragged by winter, they pose no threat to the underlying fescue, which will continue growing for winter stockpile.

Sunn hemp offers a promising solution for Missouri livestock producers seeking drought-resistant and nutritious summer pastures with the added benefit of enhancing the health of their existing fescue stands.

Photo Credit: gettyimages-fatcamera

Grants for teachers and Ag literacy in MO schools Grants for teachers and Ag literacy in MO schools
The herbal renaissance - rediscovering nature gifts The herbal renaissance - rediscovering nature gifts

Categories: Missouri, Livestock

Subscribe to newsletters

Crop News

Rural Lifestyle News

Livestock News

General News

Government & Policy News

National News

Back To Top