Livestock production in Tennessee is based on cool-season perennial forages such as tall fescue and orchardgrass. These grasses are productive during the spring and fall, but become semidormant during the summer months. The need for quality forage during this time of the year can be met by using summer annuals such as pearlmillet and sorghum X sudangrass hybrids. These summer pastures provide the opportunity to rest cool-season pastures such as orchardgrass-clover, resulting in a pasture that is more persistent and productive in the fall.
There are several opportunities to use summer annuals in a feeding program. They can be cut and taken directly to the cows, wilted and placed in a silo, or dried and stored as hay. These forages could also be harvested through grazing. Using temporary electric fencing to divide an area into paddocks (small pastures) and then grazing each paddock in rotation is an efficient way to harvest a summer annual forage.
Summer annuals can be planted following a small grain crop, providing almost yearround production of high-quality forage. Beef producers can use the pasture as a creep pasture for growing calves, or as a highquality summer supplement for beef cows on pasture. Dairy producers can use summer annual pasture to reduce feed costs. Allowing cows to obtain a portion of their intake through grazing will help decrease the dependance on stored feed, while maintaining milk production.
The major summer annual grasses grown for forage in Tennessee are sorghum X sudangrass hybrids and pearlmillet. Both are leafy plants that can grow 3 to 8 feet tall and produce relatively high-quality forage if utilized before the forage becomes mature. Even though these two grasses are often considered to be similar in their potential uses, there are several differences between these plants which result in contrasts in the practices needed to produce each forage (Table 1).
"SP434B Summer Annual Grasses," The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service, SP434B-5M-12/95 E12-2015-00-154-96, http://trace.tennessee.edu/utk_agexfora/4