Small-grain cereals are widely adapted and used as annual cool-season pastures in the Southern Great Plains (SGP) of the United States, where livestock and forage production are the largest contributors to agricultural income. The advantage of growing small grains in the region is evident due to the widespread adoption and flexibility of production for grain only, forage only, or both grain and forage (i.e., dual purpose). Farmers in the SGP often prefer the use of small grains for dual purpose mainly because of alternative income options from livestock and/or grain, ensuring stable income especially when product prices fluctuate with market demands. Small-grain forage is exceptionally important during autumn, winter, and early spring when forage availability from other sources is low. By providing nutritionally high-quality forage, small grains minimize the need for protein and energy supplements. Besides being used for winter pasture, small grains also serve as cool-season cover crops. While small grains offer different advantages in the integrated crop-livestock system in the region, farming management practices can play an important role to maximize the benefit. The objectives of this chapter are to summarize the significance of small grains as winter pasture and highlight the production status of each small-grain species in the SGP of the United States.
Part of the book: Grasses and Grassland Aspects