Climate Resilient Forages for the Upper Midwest

2016 Annual Report for GNC15-206

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2015: $9,998.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Grant Recipient: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Daniel Schaefer
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Climate Resilient Forages for the Upper Midwest


There is little information regarding forage yield or quality for grazing warm season annuals in the upper Midwest, despite their potential for increased carrying capacity, particularly during mid-summer heat and drought. Variability in precipitation in long term perennial cool season grazing studies has caused the need for rest periods in the mid-summer, some having to rest up to five weeks (Schaefer at al., 2014; Mouriño et al., 2003). Warm season annuals could be incorporated into the grazing rotation to alleviate the risk of increased variation in precipitation distribution associated with climate change.

Forage production and animal gain on warm season annual forages is not well documented in the upper Midwest. With increased pressure from climate change, it is increasingly important to evaluate annual forage options that may reduce variability in forage production over the grazing season. Sudangrass and corn are two warm season annuals options that should be investigated for the upper Midwest. 

Objectives/Performance Targets

The objectives of this study were to determine the suitability of corn and kura clover and sudangrass and kura clover for the upper Midwest, based on overall forage production and quality and responses in animal gain.


 The objectives have met for this project and a thorough investigation has been completed. Both the sudangrass and corn treatments supply high quality biomass in mid-summer. The higher than average temperatures in 2016 hindered animal performance, but forages maintained consistently high biomass. Under the experimental conditions in this study, few differences occurred between treatments. However, due to the extra 24 days of grazing, the sudangrass treatment did outperform the corn treatment in total forage harvested, producing 30% more forage harvested. Though, the corn treatment supported stocking rates that were 38% higher for half the time, resulting in similar gain ha¯¹. The two forage treatments allow for different strategies for management and can easily be adapted to fit the needs and goals of the producer.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Summer of 2016 was the final field season for this project. Information generated from this project has already been disseminated through a field day at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station in August 2016. There were approximately 20 people in attendance to join the discussion about managing the summer slump. This information was also disseminated at the annual Grassworks Conference. The presentation included all three years of data. Currently, this work is being summarized in a dissertation and is being prepared for publication.


Daniel Schaefer
Professor of Animal Science
1675 Observatory Dr.
Madison, WI 53706
Office Phone: 6082634300
Kenneth Albrecht
Professor of Agronomy
1575 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706
Office Phone: 6082622314