Cool-season crops are those that germinate and grow in cooler temperatures, including spring cereals (oats, barley, triticale, wheat), cool-season legumes (peas), and brassicas (canola), which produce the majority of their growth by early July.
Current recommendations are to cut annual cereals at the soft dough stage for greenfeed. However, Penner et al. has shown that annual cereals can be left standing to maturity without losing feed quality. It should be noted that if you're grazing mature cereals where access to forage is not restricted, producers must monitor and manage herds to reduce risk of acidosis, nitrate poisoning, etc.
When you're using spring cereal crops in monoculture for early season grazing then cutting for hay, hay harvest is seriously reduced; therefore, spring cereals should be used for grazing or hay, not both.
Grazing can begin when lower leaves begin to yellow. For oats and barley sown early in May, this is around mid-June. Plants should be grazed heavily enough so that they remain vegetative, but not so heavy that recovery time is delayed.
Grazing can be extended in combination with perennials, when early-seeded spring cereals swathed in August are grazed from August through September and stockpiled perennial forage can be used for late-fall and winter grazing.
In situations where swaths have been left overwinter, they can be grazed early in the spring grazing with supplementation (due to quality decline from weathering) to delay grazing on perennial pasture. Deferred spring grazing is especially important for maintaining the health of native perennial pasture.
Spring-seeded mixtures of spring and winter cereals can provide earlier grazing than winter cereal monocultures and will continue to accumulate dry matter later in the season. The advantage of these mixtures over spring cereal monocultures is that they can be harvested for silage and the regrowth can be grazed later in the season. The proportion of winter cereal in the mix can be increased with the need for more late-season grazing.
If used solely for grazing, a mixture of spring and winter cereal (triticale, wheat, rye) sown in spring will provide grazing in June (first cycle grazing the spring cereals) and again in August (second cycle on winter annuals).
Trampling losses for cool-season crops will be high if grazed after heading or podding and if your cattle are not restricted to limited areas.
Varieties that produce high grain yields often produce high forage yield. For some crops, forage varieties are available and can be found in the Varieties of Grain Crops.