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Alternative Annual Forage-Type Crops for Forage Production Potential in Fairview

Project Site: Fairview Research Farm NW5-82-3-W6

Research Program Manager: Dr. Akim Omokanye

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2018 Annual Report

Cool season annual forage-type cereal crops such as barley, oats, and triticale, and legume crops like peas are well suited to Peace Country growing conditions, and provide acceptable forage yield and quality for winter grazing. Several new annual crop mixtures are currently available on the market in western Canada. When making decisions about which annual crop species to include in a mixture, producers need to be aware of the adaptation, potential forage productivity, and ecological stability of any newly introduced crop species in their area. Several annual crops are suitable for inclusion in cocktail mixtures for forage production (grazing, silage, or greenfeed) and to improve soil health. Many of the alternative feeds vary widely in nutrient content, making an analysis or some assessment of the feed value necessary. Several cover crops are still relatively new to us in the Peace, and questions have been asked about the adaptation, yield, and forage quality in order to determine their suitability for livestock production. This article reports the forage yield and quality of several species of annual forage-type crops that were tested in Fairview in 2018.


The study site was at the Fairview Research Farm (NW5-82-3W6) on RR #35, MD of Fairview. The site had been in alfalfa hay for more than 15 years. The site was sprayed with Roundup and plowed the fall before. This was later disced and harrowed in the spring before seeding. Soil tests at 0-6” showed an organic matter of 7.6%, a pH of 6.9, and an electrical conductivity of 0.2 dS/m.

The following alternative forage-type crops were tested in 4 replications using RCBD:

1. White proso millet- cereal/grass

2. AC Andrew white wheat- cereal

3. AAC Jatharia soft white wheat- cereal

4. Red siberian millet- grass

5. Perun festulolium- grass

6. Barfest festulolium- grass

7. Fojtan festulolium- grass

8. Sorghum sudan grass- grass

9. Japanese millet- grass

10. CDC Haymaker (Check) - cereal

11. Vivant forage brassica

12. Tillage radish - brassica

13. Purple top turnips - brassica

14. Frosty berseem clover - legume

15. Crimson clover- legume

16. Phacelia - an upright broadleaf forb

17. Plantain - broadleaf

18. Chicory - broadleaf

Roundup was used for pre-seed burn off. Seeding was done on May 25 with a 6-row plot drill at 9” row spacing.

According to soil test recommendations for balanced crop nutrition for average cereal/grass production, fertility needed was 147 lb N + 43 lb P + 46 lb K + 16 lb S and this was applied at seeding. Both clovers received 43 lb P + 46 lb K + 16 lb S fertilizer. Phacelia, plantain and chicory received 35 lb N + 20 lb P + 26 lb K + 8 lb S.

For the grasses/cereals, in-crop spraying was done on June 19 with 0.17 L/acre Prestige XC A+ 0.80 L/acre Prestige XC B. The 2 legumes were sprayed with Basagran Forte. The phacelia, plantain and chicory were hand weeded once on July 4th.

Harvesting for forage dry matter (DM) yield determination and quality analysis was done from August 15 to August 21, depending on the crop. The cereals/grasses, tillage radish, and crimson clover were harvested first. Two composite forage samples were sent to A & L laboratory in Ontario for quality determination.


Forage Dry Matter (DM) yield

The forage DM yield varied from 1806 lbs/acre for plantain to 8771 lbs/acre for sorghum sudan grass (Table 1). Except for sorghum sudan grass, the check (CDC Haymaker oats) produced higher forage DM yield than all alternative forage-type crops tested. With some of the alternative forage-type crops producing 2.5 tons DM yield/acre or more, it shows that some of these crops have great forage production potential, and can be grown as monocrops, or added to cover crop cocktails for pasture, greenfeed, silage, or swath grazing in Fairview and area.

Forage Quality

Among the broadleaf crops, forage crude protein (CP) was higher for plantain than phacelia and chicory (Table 1). Frosty berseem clover seemed to have higher forage CP than crimson clover. The crimson clover was harvested slightly later than it should, hence the lower forage CP. Of the 3 forage-type brassicas, vivant forage brassica had a slight edge in forage CP over the others. Among the forage-type alternative cereals/grasses, perun festulolium had the highest forage CP (19.7%). Generally, the forage-type alternative cereals/grasses had higher forage CP levels than CDC Haymaker oats (check). CDC Haymaker oats just barely met the CP required for mature beef cattle, while chicory was only able to provide a sufficient amount of CP for a dry gestating beef cow in mid-pregnancy. All alternative forage-type cereal/grass, legume, brassica, and broadleaf crops exceeded the recommended CP for mature beef cattle.

Vivant forage brassica, turnips, and chicory all had far lower forage detergent fibres (ADF & NDF) than the other alternative forage-type crops tested (Table 2). As the forage ADF and NDF percentages increase, forage digestibility and DM intake will generally decrease. This means that when all of the alternative forage-type crops are presented side by side to cows in a preference study - Vivant forage brassica, turnips, and chicory would likely be preferred and consumed more. This shows that including Vivant forage brassica, turnips, and/or chicory in cover crop cocktails would improve forage quality.

Overall, the forage energy, determined using total digestible nutrients (TDN), was generally adequate for a dry gestating beef cow in both mid- and late-pregnancy stages. AAC Jatharia soft white wheat, Perun festulolium, Vivant forage brassica, purple top turnips, and chicory all had greater than 70% TDN (Table 2), indicating that as monocrops, they would be able to supply more than sufficient energy for all categories of both young and mature beef cattle. They can also be used as an energy supplement when grown as monocrops for silage, haylage, or greenfeed. They would also be valuable in increasing the forage energy content of cocktail mixtures. In the present study, chicory had the highest TDN, followed closely by purple top turnips and then Vivant forage brassica, and AAC Jatharia soft white wheat.

Table 3 shows forage mineral content of the alternative forage-type feeds tested. The forage Ca content of Sorghum sudan grass, Japanese millet, CDC Haymaker (Check), Vivant forage brassica, tillage radish, turnips, frosty berseem clover, and plantain all exceeded the Ca requirements of both young and mature beef cattle. Others were only able to meet the 0.18% Ca needed by a dry gestating cow, and in most cases the 0.31% Ca recommended for young beef cattle. Only 5 alternative crops, as well as check, had sufficient P (0.26%) for mature beef cattle. All crops had adequate K, Mg, Na (except AAC Jatharia soft white wheat, turnips, phacelia, and plantain), S (except crimson clover), Fe, Zn and Mn. On the other hand, only red siberian millet met the recommended Cu for mature beef cattle.


In terms of forage DM yield, only white proso millet, AC Andrew white wheat, AAC Jatharia soft white wheat, and sorghum sudan grass compared well with CDC Haymaker oats. Except for chicory, all alternative forage crops met, and in most cases exceeded, the CP needed by both young and mature beef cattle. All alternative forage crops generally had sufficient TDN for both young and mature beef cattle. Due to the lack of adequate P, Na, or Cu in some cases, mineral supplementation may be needed. Overall, most of the tested alternative crops have shown great forage production potential for the Fairview area and would be suitable for inclusion in cover crop cocktails, and beef cattle diets.

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