Lets talk about the various types of millet.

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Steve Wilson

Well-known member
May 29, 2008
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Mid Missouri
Many of us seem to be in millet mode now but I have a small concern that some may think all types of millet are the same. They aren't. I only have experience with two of them; Hybrid Pearl millet and German Foxtail millet. And they are quite different plants.

Hybrid pearl millet is a very leafy plant with a stem of perhaps 3/4 inch in diameter as it ages. The thicker you plant it, the smaller the stems. It develops side shoots on its lower stem, which may form early on but certainly do once the plant is grazed or mowed. This is what allows subsequent grazings/mowings. The trick with this millet is to get as many cycles as you can in the growing season. If grazing, you need to let it get up about thigh high then put as many animals on it as it takes to graze it down to about 6 inches in a week....10 days at the most. Then pull them off and let it grow back up. Repeat, repeat. Depending on what part of the country you are in, amount of rainfall and fertilizer program, you could get as many as 4 cycles. We average 3 but with better management of the critters, we could get 4. This year, I planted a 10 acre pasture, with the intent of haying it and am counting on at least two cuttings and hoping for 3. I will mow it when I see the first few of the seedheads appear.

You may ask...why less cuttings than grazings? Good question. Cause the stuff grows so danged fast once it really gets going. The calves will be in there for a few days and you won't hardly see any effect. Like they can't even keep up with the growth. Well, for a few days, they aren't keeping up. And you start thinking....maybe do, toss in another bunch of them to help out. Remember, the goal is to graze it down in a week....10 days max. Because you have to remember you only have so many growing days in a season and the clock is ticking. With mowing for hay, you take it all down in a single day. That's the difference.

Hybred pearl millet seems to me, to be about the perfect forage. Protien content runs in the 14 to 17 percent range, though TDN could be could be a little higher, if I had a choice. Seems the last data I read said it was in the 55 - 65% range. Don't quote me on the number though. At any rate, you turn in a bunch of calves that are used to getting a ration of ground feed everyday. And you go call them up as they are chowing down on the millet. All they will do is raise their heads and maybe give you a friendly bawl to let you know they see you. They aren't going to come. If the water tank is dry and you call while you are refilling it. They look up for a moment. Yea, he is filling our tank. We'll go get a drink later on. I think it was Jogeephus that said when he hauls a bale of it out to his herd he feels like somebody packing a big roll of balogna through Etheopia. Take that as a serious comment. It is, when hybrid pearl millet is concerned.

Cattle feed through a hybrid pearl millet field in the most classic formation. Shoulder to shoulder, grazing in a straight line across the field as they swing their heads from side to side, biting off the millet. They will graze for hours; you think they will lay down any minute, surely as full as they can be. Finally, at long last they flop down in the shade of the trees. Bellies tight as a tick. You think they will certainly stay there the rest of the day. Nope, in a bit they are up and right back at it.

Now, German Foxtail millet is an entirely different plant. I've only use it once, last year with the haybeans. It is a single grazing/mowing deal, especially once the seedhead forms. Cut it, and it is done for the season. There is also Japanese millet. Though I know nothing about it except that some of my duck hunting buddies have it seeded by airplane on some of their marshy ground.

Let's hope that some of the other millet folks wade in with their experiences and recommendations.
No help from here, I'm still trying to learn too. Had an Uncle that said they used to grow millet on this land for the mules and horses. I figured he was talking about German millet.
I agree, millet is a wonderful forage but it too has its drawbacks. First one is it grows so fast you better be ready to graze it. If the cows can't catch it, it will go rank on you and you need to bale it or face possible eye problems in the cattle. If you cut it, then its going to take several days to get it dry enough to bale so you really need a backup plan like baleage or something like this. If you end up doing baleage, then you are faced with the problem of eventually moving and feeding 1500-1800 lb bales but the cows love it. But lord have mercy on the over eager cow that sticks its head into the ring just as you drop that sucker in the ring. Yep, it will brain it good. Pin its head in the pile of sileage and you will get to dig its head out. Reaching into that sour mash slippery slimey gom isn't for everyone especially if you are on your way to a social function. The smell just doesn't rinse off but gradually wears off. Oh, and the cow. When you finally dig your way to the cow you'll find it is eating its way out like nothing ever happened. Yep, its got its drawbacks but I think I can deal with them. :nod:
Very good post on hybrid pearl millet. I'm finally getting ready to buy the seed and the only 2 in my area are tifleaf and pennleaf. Im just hoping for two cutting of this stuff this year with weather cooperating. Does tifleaf take longer to cut than the pennleaf if anyone knows?
SFFarms":c956sxgj said:
Very good post on hybrid pearl millet. I'm finally getting ready to buy the seed and the only 2 in my area are tifleaf and pennleaf. Im just hoping for two cutting of this stuff this year with weather cooperating. Does tifleaf take longer to cut than the pennleaf if anyone knows?
Tifleaf is supposed to be the best and I couldn't get any seed