Buckeye Dairy News: VOLUME 25: ISSUE 5

  1. Milk Prices, Costs of Nutrients, Margins and Comparison of Feedstuffs Prices

    April F. White, Graduate Research Associate, Department of Animal Sciences,The Ohio State University

    Milk Prices

    In the July issue, the Class III milk future for August was $16.94/cwt and September was $17.33/cwt.  Class III milk closing price for August was $17.19/cwt, with protein and butterfat prices at $2.09 and $3.02/lb, respectively. Both component prices are increased compared to the July issue, with protein rising by nearly $0.50/lb. This issue, the Class III future for October is $16.83/cwt, with the November at $17.02/cwt.

    Updated Corn Silage Price

    A new corn silage price used throughout this article was calculated as corn silage harvest winds down in Ohio. This year’s approximate price for normal corn silage (32-38% dry matter), based on a $4.84/bu corn grain price at the end of day September 28, 2023, was $56.40/ton. This marks a $15.41/ton decrease in the calculated price of corn silage for 2023, leaving the feed ingredient cost closer to that of 2021. Based on its nutritive value, home grown corn silage continues to be a bargain feed in dairy cattle rations.

    Nutrient Prices

    It can be helpful to compare the prices in Table 1 to the 5-year averages. Compared to the July issue, nutrient costs are more closely aligned with the 5-year averages. The cost of net energy for lactation (NEL) is about 4% lower than the 5-year average ($0.09/Mcal). The cost of metabolizable protein (MP) has increased since the July issue and is currently about 37% higher than the 5-year average ($0.44/lb).

    To estimate profitability at these nutrient prices, the Cow-Jones Index was used for average US cows weighing 1500 lb and producing milk with 3.9% fat and 3.2% protein. For the September issue, the income over nutrient cost (IONC) for cows milking 70 and 85 lb/day is about $10.84 and $11.25/cwt, respectively. Both values are expected to be profitable even though they are lower than in July. As a word of caution, these estimates of IONC do not account for the cost of replacements or dry cows, or for profitability changes related to culling cows.

    Table 1. Prices of dairy nutrients for Ohio dairy farms, September 28, 2023.
    A screenshot of a calculatorDescription automatically generated

    Economic Value of Feeds

    Results of the Sesame analysis for central Ohio on September 28, 2023 are presented in Table 2. Detailed results for all 26 feed commodities are reported. The lower and upper limits mark the 75% confidence range for the predicted (break-even) prices. Feeds in the “Appraisal Set” were those for which we didn’t have a local price or were adjusted to reflect their true (“Corrected”) value in a lactating diet. One must remember that SESAME™ compares all commodities at one specific point in time. Thus, the results do not imply that the bargain feeds are cheap on a historical basis. Feeds for which a price was not reported were added to the appraisal set this issue.

    Table 2. Actual, breakeven (predicted) and 75% confidence limits of 26 feed commodities used on Ohio dairy farms, September 28, 2023.

    A screenshot of a computerDescription automatically generatedA screenshot of a computerDescription automatically generated

    For convenience, Table 3 summarizes the economic classification of feeds according to their outcome in the SESAME™ analysis. Feedstuffs that have gone up in price based on current nutrient values, or in other words, moved a column to the right since the last issue are in oversized text. Conversely, feedstuffs that have moved to the left (i.e., decreased in value) are undersized text. These shifts (i.e., feeds moving columns to the left or right) in price are only temporary changes relative to other feedstuffs within the last two months and do not reflect historical prices. Feeds added to the appraisal set were removed from this table.

    Table 3. Partitioning of feedstuffs in Ohio, September 28, 2023.

    Bargains At Breakeven Overpriced
    Corn, ground, dry 41% Cottonseed meal Alfalfa hay - 40% NDF
    Corn silage Whole cottonseed Blood meal
    Distillers dried grains Feather meal Mechanically extracted canola meal
    Gluten feed Meat meal Solvent extracted canola meal
    Gluten meal Soybean hulls 44% Soybean meal
    Hominy 48% Soybean meal Whole, roasted soybeans
    Soybean meal - expeller   Tallow
    Wheat middlings  

    Wheat Bran

    As coined by Dr. St-Pierre, I must remind the readers that these results do not mean that you can formulate a balanced diet using only feeds in the “bargains” column. Feeds in the “bargains” column offer a savings opportunity, and their usage should be maximized within the limits of a properly balanced diet. In addition, prices within a commodity type can vary considerably because of quality differences as well as non-nutritional value added by some suppliers in the form of nutritional services, blending, terms of credit, etc. Also, there are reasons that a feed might be a very good fit in your feeding program while not appearing in the “bargains” column. For example, your nutritionist might be using some molasses in your rations for reasons other than its NEL and MP contents.


    For those of you who use the 5-nutrient group values (i.e., replace MP by rumen degradable protein and digestible rumen undegradable protein), see Table4.

    Table 4. Prices of dairy nutrients using the 5-nutrient solution for Ohio dairy farms, September 28, 2023.

    A screenshot of a calculatorDescription automatically generated

  2. Dairy Outlook: September 2023

    Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Tuscarawas County, Ohio State University Extension

    In mid-September, the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (USDA ERS) released its monthly Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook. The latest report is available here: https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/outlooks/107464/ldp-m-351.pdf?v=6487.8. This article will summarize portions of the dairy section of the report.

    Supply and Use

    According to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), milk production in the United States totaled 19.075 billion lb (615 million lb/day) in July 2023, 0.5% lower than July 2022. Milk cows on farms averaged 9.4 million head in July, down 13,000 head from July 2022. The average milk production per cow was 2,029 lb in July 2023, down 9 lb from July 2022. Very high temperatures and dry weather are the primary factors in reduced milk production.

    A graph of a number of cowsDescription automatically generated

    Dairy Margin Coverage milk margins dropped below $4 in June and July. Values below $4 are considered “catastrophic” by the program, triggering indemnity payments to all participants.  The table below summarizes the all-milk price and feed costs.

    A graph of growing weeding costsDescription automatically generated

    Price Forecast: 2023-2024

    The September report revised milk prices up slightly for the remainder of 2023. The milk supply typically responds to changes in prices with a lag of several months. The low margins experienced in 2023 are expected to contribute to further contraction of the dairy herd in the first half of 2024. However, some rebuilding of the milking herd is expected in late 2024 as milk prices improve and feed costs moderate.


    Projection for 2024











    Moving Forward

    While the price projections from the latest USDA ERS report have been revised upward, profitability will continue to be an issue for many dairy producers. Enrolling in the OSU Extension Farm Business Analysis and Benchmarking Program can help evaluate your financial position and assist with future planning. Please see https://farmprofitability.osu.edu/ for additional information. 

  3. Feed Market Outlook: Tight Cattle Supply Continues to Hold Cull Cow Prices

    Jason Hartschuh, Extension Field Specialist, Dairy Management and Precision Livestock, Ohio State University Extension and Dr. Seungki Lee, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics, The Ohio State University

    Feeder Cattle Price Reached an All-Time High in September 2023

    The feeder cattle price is at a historic high, and the price rally is expected to continue through 2024 because of the tight supply. Figure 1 illustrates the recent cash future prices of several livestock commodities and the Bloomberg (Bberg) index. Clearly, the cattle-related prices show a remarkable increasing trend, compared with hogs and the general ag commodity index (i.e., Bberg AG Commodity). In this article, we will look over the current cattle stocks, which is the reason for the current strong cattle price and the feed market outlook.

    Low Cattle Stock is the Factor

    On September 22, 2023, USDA released a new “Cattle on Feed” report, presenting that the current inventory is 2% below where we were in the previous year (Figure 2). According to the report, during August, placements in feedlots totaled 2 million and marketings of fed totaled 1.88 million head, which is, respectively, 5% and 6% below 2022.

    Feed Market Outlook – Moderate Demand Increase Expected, but Local Issues Matter

    Major commodities for feed are useful references to check the feed market outlook. Table 1 shows a snapshot of feed-related grains on the USDA’s September WASDE report. Because of the larger corn acreage, USDA forecast a 9.7% higher corn supply in the 2023/24 market. In contrast, the soybean supply is forecasted at 3.4% less than the previous year due to the smaller acreage. Interestingly, while the soybean production is expected to be smaller, the soybean meal supply is forecasted to be 2.7% bigger in the 2023/24 market. This prediction is grounded on the rebalancing between the domestic use and exports of soybeans. In the report, USDA projected the US soybean export would be 1.79 billion bushels in 2023/24, which is about 10% down from the previous year. As shown in Table 1, the soybean meal export is forecasted to be higher by 4.9% in 2023/24. So, we can understand the increased consumption forecast for soybean meal is attributed to the higher domestic demand for soybean oil and lower foreign demand for beans. In fact, USDA predicted the biofuel use of soybean oil would be 12.5 million pounds, which is 5.9% greater than last year. When looking at the feed and residual use, corn is forecasted to be increased by 3.7% in 2023/24, but wheat is forecasted to be the same as the previous year. Thus, overall, the feed-related demand is expected to be moderately greater in 2023/24.

    Since the commodity prices are projected to be lowered by and large in 2023/24, buyers will try to lock in at attractive prices, whereas sellers will try to sell when prices are high. As we move through the harvest season, sooner or later, we are going to see the final picture of grain supply, which will help with a better understanding of the supply side move in the feed market.

    For Ohio farmers, it can be useful to see the Ohio hay prices in relation to the national hay prices and soybean meal prices. Figure 3 displays the price trends of hay and soybean meal, where hay prices are presented in three ways: 1) all hay products, 2) hays except for alfalfa, and 3) alfalfa only. As depicted in Figure 3, the national hay prices are largely correlated with soybean meal price, alluding to a substitute relationship. Specifically, we can see that alfalfa is the major factor of the high correlation. However, Ohio hay prices are clearly less correlated with the national price trends, which is not surprising because the majority of transactions of feed grain happen in the Western Corn Belt Plains.  Ohio’s hay market is unique compared to the national market with much of the hay going through the market being used by small load buyers who won’t substitute hay for other protein sources. With a potentially large soybean meal supply, producers will need to watch the hay cost to soybean meal balance next year. Therefore, local market circumstances will be much more critical for Ohio growers, although the macro-level feed market moves will still need to be factored.  

    Table 1. Feed-related commodities snapshot in the U.S.




    Change from 22/23

      Estimate Forecast (%)
    Corn supply (mil bu) 15,147 16,611 9.7%
    Soybean supply (mil bu) 4,581 4,426 -3.4%
    Soybean meal supply (1,000 ton) 53,500 54,925 2.7%
    Wheat supply (mil bu) 2,470 2,444 -1.1%
    Corn: Feed and residual (mil bu) 5,425 5,625 3.7%
    Wheat: Feed and residual (mil bu) 90 90 0%
    Soybean meal (1,000 ton) 53,150 54,525 2.6%
    Soybean meal export (1,000 ton) 14,400 15,100 4.9%
    Corn ($/bu) 6.55 4.90 -25.2%
    Soybeans ($/bu) 14.20 12.90 -9.2%
    Soybean meal ($/ton) 455 380 -16.5%
    Wheat ($/bu) 8.83 7.50 -15.1%

    (Source: USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates)


    Figure 1. Daily futures price trends.
    (Source: Barchart CmdtyView, accessed on September 26, 2023)


    Figure 2. Cattle on feed inventory on 1,000+ capacity feedlots in the US.

     (Source: USDA NASS)


    Figure 3. Hay prices and soybean meal cash (CBOT) trend.
     (Source: USDA NASS and Barchart CmdtyView)

  4. Fall Application of Dairy Manure

    Glen Arnold, Manure Management Field Specialist, OSU Extension

    Corn silage harvest is the start of serious manure application efforts by dairy farmers and commercial manure applicators across Ohio. We have experienced unusually dry weather in much of Ohio, so fields are suitable for manure application.

    The field application of manure, milking parlor water, outdoor lot runoff, and silage leachate is a necessary part of dairy farming. Manure transport and application is a significant expense on dairy farms and can easily approach $150 to $175/cow annually. The rapidly increasing prices of pumps, hoses, and manure application equipment in recent years has forced commercial manure applicators to raise the prices they charge dairy farmers for manure application.

    To best capture the fall applied manure nutrients, manure should be incorporated during application or as soon as possible afterwards. Livestock producers should also consider using cover crops to capture more of the manure nutrients, especially the nitrogen, and also to prevent soil erosion. Another benefit of cover crops that overwinter is the uptake of nitrogen early in the spring when fields are not yet suitable for traffic in March and April and manure nitrogen is still available for plant uptake.

    The most common cover crops used with livestock manure are cereal rye, wheat, and oats. However, farmers have also used radishes, clover, annual ryegrass, Sudan grass, or almost anything they are comfortable growing. If a farmer is participating in the H2Ohio program, be sure to work with your Soil and Water Conservation District to be certain your cover crop mixture meets the necessary application rate(s) and also meets the requirement to live through the winter months.

    A cover crop that is excellent at recycling nitrogen is wheat. Like cereal rye, wheat germinates at low soil temperatures, overwinters, and is an easy cover crop to control the following spring or become a forage crop as wheat silage. It will capture large amounts of the available nitrogen from fall applied livestock manure. Dairy producers can spur growth with one or two applications of manure as the wheat grows next spring.

    Cereal rye is the most commonly planted cool-season grass for capturing excess nitrogen. Because rye over-winters, research has shown it can capture and hold 25 to 50 lb/acre of nitrogen in the organic form as roots and plant tissue. It germinates at lower temperatures than oats so it may be planted later, but less nitrogen will be recycled the later in the fall the rye is seeded. This is another cover crop that could be used as a forage crop in the spring.

    Oats are sometimes used as a cover crop in the fall and need to be planted soon after silage harvest. Drilling oats improves germination and growth before frost. Some farmers in northwest Ohio have had great success surface seeding oats and incorporating with shallow tillage.

    Cover crops can help livestock farmers recapture manure nutrients and conserve soil by reducing erosion. Livestock producers should consider Best Management Practices, such as setbacks, when applying manure. The goal should be to combine nutrient recovery and to protect water quality. Manure application rules in Ohio are influenced by watershed location. Check with your local Soil and Water Conservation District about the most current rules in your area.


  5. Keep Forage Nitrate Toxicity in Mind This Year

    Jason Hartschuh, Extension Field Specialist, Dairy Management and Precision Livestock, Ohio State University Extension

    This year has been a weather rollercoaster with multiple spells of drought and flooded conditions. These adverse growing conditions can cause unforeseen challenges with the forages you have stored away. We have had multiple reports of high nitrate levels this year. The first reports of high nitrate levels were in June harvested oats after the early season drought. Recently, we have had additional reports of dangerously high nitrate levels in millet hay with the recently dry weather.  Producers have also told us that they are struggling with excessive silo gas coming from corn silage.

    Plants readily take up nitrates from the soil, even under cooler conditions.  Once in the plant, nitrate is converted to nitrite, then ammonia, and finally into amino acids and plant protein. Any environmental stress that significantly slows down plant photosynthesis and metabolism can lead to excessive nitrate levels in the plant because the nitrate uptake from the soil will be faster than its metabolism into plant protein. Such stresses include frost, extended cold weather, cloudy conditions, hail damage, or drought. While frost is a concern for increasing nitrates in forage, the sorghum family also has prussic acid concerns when plants die quickly because of a frost. Prussic acid and nitrate poisoning are not the same.  

    When ruminants consume excessive levels of nitrate in their diet, the nitrate is converted to nitrite by rumen microbes faster than it can be converted to ammonia, amino acids, and eventually to protein. Accumulated nitrite in the rumen is then absorbed into the bloodstream where it prevents oxygen transport, which leads to death. Livestock sensitivity to nitrates ranked from highest to lowest is: pigs > cattle > sheep > horses. Older or sick animals are generally more sensitive than young healthy animals. The fetus in pregnant animals is very sensitive to high nitrates ingested in the diet.

    One of the common solutions for forages that have slightly elevated levels of nitrates is to mix them with another forage source that is low in nitrates. The best way to do this is to truly mix the two forages so that your cattle eat both at once as a balanced lower nitrate diet. When this is not possible, feed the low nitrate forage first, allowing them to fill up on it, then offer the higher nitrate forage keeping them full for the day alternating forages each feeding. This year it may be important to test those dilution forages to be sure they are truly low in nitrates. Nitrate levels in forage are commonly reported in 3 different ways, ppm NO3 DM, percent NO3, and ppm NO3-N (DM). Table 1 below summarizes how to interpret the results.

    Table 1: Interpretation of nitrate forage test results.

    ppm NO3 (DM)

    Percent NO3

    ppm NO3-N

    Interpretation of results




    Generally safe for all cattle.




    Generally safe for non-pregnant beef cattle. Low risk of reduced breeding performance and early-term abortions. Total ration for dairy cattle should be less than 2500 ppm NO3.




    Some risk for all cattle. May cause mid to late-term abortions and weak newborn calves. May decrease growth and milk production.




    Potentially toxic for all cattle. Can cause abortions, acute toxicity symptoms, and death.

    Any time forage growth has been significantly slowed due to extended cold nights, cloudy weather, dry conditions, or premature plant death, nitrates may be an issue. All these stresses can lead to higher nitrate levels in plants due to slowed growth. Nitrogen fertilizer or manure applications made to forages increase the risk for higher nitrate levels in plant tissue, especially if excess nitrogen is available and forage growth is slow.

    Nitrate accumulation is possible in many forage species, including all cool-season perennial forage grasses, alfalfa, all cereal forages (oat, rye, triticale, wheat, barley, spelt, etc.), and brassicas (might be present in cover crop mixes). Nitrates can also accumulate in warm season annuals (corn, sorghum species, millet, and many weeds). Weed species are heavy nitrate accumulators, including lambsquarter, pigweed, dock, some mustard species, horse nettle, nightshade, quackgrass, and jimsonweed. Heavy infestations of those weeds when harvested with the forage will increase the risk of nitrate toxicity.

    Nitrate levels are generally higher in younger than more mature growth. Delaying forage harvest to the dough stage and other forages to flowering/heading stages can significantly reduce nitrate levels. Cutting height can also affect levels as nitrates accumulate in the lower one-third of plants more than in the upper two-thirds.

    Plant nitrate concentrations are higher in the morning than later in the day (plant metabolism during daylight drives the conversion of nitrate to plant protein). Mowing hay late in the afternoon on a sunny day can reduce nitrate levels in forage, especially with the longer fall nights. Once hay is mowed, nitrate levels do not change much during the drying process, so dry hay levels will be similar to levels at the time you mow. Prior to mowing, nitrate levels vary across the field based on plant growth and variable soil nitrogen. This variability increases even more in a field based on mowing time. If we start in the morning and mow all day, the evening mowed forage should have lower nitrate levels. 

    However, ensiling can reduce nitrate levels from 10 to 65% provided fermentation is good. But if the forage is initially very high in nitrates, the silage could yet contain toxic nitrate levels, so this is not an automatic fail-safe option. Be very cautious as high nitrate forages ferment, the bacteria break down the nitrate and release deadly nitrogen gas. Nitrogen oxide gases are heavier than air, may be reddish or yellow-brown in color, and have a bleach-like smell. Nitrogen oxide gases will accumulate in low-lying places, such as around the base of a silo or in the feed room below a tower. When ensiling forage that may have high nitrate concentrations, do not enter the silo for at least three weeks after harvest. If you must enter the silo to level or cover the silage, do it immediately after filling and leave the blower running while anyone is in the silo. If you usually run the blower for an hour prior to entering the silo, it may be necessary to run it for 2 hours to be sure the gas is cleared and fresh air is present.

    Silage must be harvested at the proper moisture for complete fermentation (Table 2). When forages are harvested too dry, they do not ferment properly and nitrate reductions will be less. Baleage is often harvested on the drier side, and even when it is harvested in the ideal moisture range, reductions will not be as much as well-packed silage. Baleage densities are much lower than properly packed silage, so the additional oxygen slows fermentation. If nitrate levels are reduced in silage in about 3 weeks, it will take 6 or more weeks for levels to be reduced in baleage. Since nitrate levels can vary across a field, the harvested forage can be quite variable in nitrate concentration.

    Table 2. Ideal moisture content for forage stored as silage or baleage.

    Type of Silo

    % Moisture Content

    % Dry Matter Content

    Horizontal (bunker) silo

    65% - 70%

    30% - 35%

    Bag silo

    65% - 70%

    30% - 35%

    Tower silo

    62% - 67%

    33% - 38%

    Oxygen-limiting tower silo

    55% - 60%

    40% - 45%


    50% - 60%

    40% - 50%

    The bottom line is that if you suspect the forage could be high in nitrate, the safest thing to do is to sample the forage and have it tested before it is harvested, because if levels are high, you can delay harvest to reduce the levels. You should certainly sample the stored forage before feeding it if you suspect higher levels! Call your forage lab and follow their guidelines closely for sampling the forage, packaging, and shipping the sample to them.

  6. Forage Testing Now Available Through Ohio State

    Dr. Marilia Chiavegato, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal Sciences and Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, The Ohio State University

    The Ohio State University Sustainable Agroecosystems Laboratory is now offering forage analysis. Two forage testing options are available to be done by the lab located on Coffey Road in Columbus.

    Package 1 ($18.50) includes dry matter, crude protein, fiber (NDF and ADF), minerals (Ca, P, K, and Mg), digestibility, ash, fat, lignin, and starch. Package 2 ($20.50) includes all analyses listed in Package 1 plus calculation of total digestible nutrients (TDN) and relative forage quality (RFQ). There is a $2.00/sample grinding fee.

    Helpful test interpretation is provided with both packages! For more information, including shipping and price quotes, scan the QR code below or contact: Marilia Chiavegato, Assistant Professor at chiavegato.1@osu.edu or (614) 625-7512. 

    A qr code on a black background

Description automatically generated

  7. Next Year’s Winter Annual Cereal Grain Forage Success Starts Now

    Jason Hartschuh, Extension Field Specialist, Dairy Management and Precision Livestock, Ohio State University Extension

    Winter annual forages can be a very economical feed for dairy cows and heifers. The four most common winter annuals are rye, triticale, wheat, and barley. Of these four crops, the most challenging is barley, with it having less winter survivability in our research projects. The benefit to barley is a slightly higher crude protein (CP) and smaller stems, allowing this species to dry better than the other three for hay. Barley CP stays higher even as the crop matures with similar CP levels at pollination to the other species' CP just before the head emerges. In a 3-year study conducted at the Ohio State research stations in Jackson, Fremont, and Custer, cereal rye had the highest yield when harvested just before the head emerges, averaging 1.92 ton/acre of dry matter (DM). Harvesting later once the head emerged increased the DM yield of triticale the most with a yield average of 2.81 ton/acre and a top location average for triticale at 5 tons/acre. In this study, 50 lb/acre of spring nitrogen were applied. Yield and quality data from this trial can be found in Table 1. Species that have a 10.0 after them were harvested at Feeks 10.0 or head in the boot, while those with a 10.5 after them were harvested at Feeks 10.5 head fully emerged and in flower.

    Table 1: Winter annual cereal grain species yield and quality average over 3 years and 3 locations. Results in the same column with similar superscripts statistically had the same yield or quality.1 


    DM Yield (ton/acre)

    Crude Protein (%)

    NDF (%)

    TDN (%)

    Barley 10.0





    Barley 10.5





    Hybrid Rye 10.0





    Hybrid Rye 10.5





    Rye 10.0





    Rye 10.5





    Triticale 10.0





    Triticale 10.5





    Wheat 10.0





    Wheat 10.5





    1DM=dry matter, NDF = neutral detergent fiber, and TDN = total digestible nutrients.

    Not only did species affect yield, but it also impacted forage quality. Barley and wheat had higher CP and total digestible nutrients than both triticale and wheat at either harvest timing. NDF was also lower for barley and wheat. While barley is a good feed, we lost our stand to winter injury at all locations one year and at one location an additional year. All varieties in this study were variety unstated.

    Winter annual cereal forage varieties have very different yields, even within the same species. Within species, yield and quality greatly differed between varieties.  One cereal rye variety in a Penn State variety trial yielded 3.63 ton/acre of DM while another only yielded 2.91 ton/acre. The cereal rye varieties also had a 14-day maturity window between varieties. When planting cereal rye, we often plant a variety unstated as it is cheaper, easy to get, and often used as a cover crop.  

    Triticale also has huge differences in yield, but all varieties mature in a much tighter number of days than the cereal rye. The top yielding triticale variety in the Penn State trial was BCT 19004, with a yield of 4.94 ton/acre of DM with 11.62% CP. The lowest yielding variety was BCT 19003, with a yield of 3.29 ton/acre of DM and 11.46% CP. Many of the other varieties you may be planting yield somewhere in the middle like TriCal Thor that yielded 4.17 ton/acre of DM with a CP of 14.17%. There are many more varieties available that will do well in Ohio. When selecting varieties, look for agronomic information on winter survival and disease tolerance.

    Nitrogen management is a critical part of winter annual forage production. Over the last 2 years, we conducted a trial in Fremont, Ohio at the North Central Research Station on nitrogen and sulfur management on cereal rye.  Our research showed higher yields of 0.27 ton/acre DM in 2022 and 1.5 ton/acre more DM in 2023 when 20 lb/acre of nitrogen was applied in the fall at planting after soybeans compared to no additional nitrogen. Fall nitrogen had little effect on forage quality. We also compared two spring nitrogen rates of 50 and 70 lb/acre plus 20 lb/acre of spring sulfur. Spring nitrogen rates of 70 lb/acre had no effect on yield compared to 50 lb/acre in 2022, but more spring nitrogen in 2023 increased yields by a ton when sulfur was also applied. Full trial results for 2023 can be found in Table 2. Spring nitrogen had a significant increase in CP. Seventy pounds of spring nitrogen increased CP by 0.5 to 2% over 50 lb/acre of spring nitrogen. Sulfur application in the spring of 20 lb/acre did significantly increase yield in 2023 when 70 lb/acre of nitrogen were applied. Our trials only achieved CP values of 12.3%. Our top-yielding treatment was 6.8 ton/acre of DM and had 90 lb/acre of nitrogen applied. This crop removed 270 lb/acre of nitrogen. From our field trial without historical manure applications, additional consideration is needed if CP would increase from more nitrogen applied; however, we must be careful not to increase CP at the expense of crop lodging.

    Table 2: Cereal rye yield and quality in 2023 affected by nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) applications. Results in the same column with similar letters had statistically the same yield and quality.1  

    Treatments TDN (%) CP (%) NDF (%) Yield (ton/ac DM)

    Fall N-0#, Spring N-70#





    Fall N-0#, Spring N-50#





    Fall N-20#, Spring N-50#,





    Fall N-20#, Spring N-50#, Spring S-20#





    Fall N-20#, Spring N-70#





    Fall N-20#, Spring N-20#, Spring S-20#





    Least significant difference:





    Coefficient of variation (%):





    1TDN = Total digestible nutrients, CP = crude protein, NDF = neutral detergent fiber, and DM = dry matter.

    When trying to maximize forage profitability per acre, consider managing your forage crop more like an agronomic crop. Consider variety selection for your needs looking at both yield and nutritional value. Also, consider nitrogen rate and timing. Your nitrogen may come from commercial fertilizer or manure. Work from New York also showed that unless there was residual nitrogen left over from the previous crop, a fall nitrogen application increased tillering and forage yield. This work also showed that if the field didn’t have fall manure or a history of manure application, a spring nitrogen application increased yield. By increasing your winter cereal grain forage management, you can return even more to your operation’s profitability.