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Annual Crop Mixtures for Beef Swath Grazing and Dairy Silage

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Trial Site: Fairview Research Farm

Collaborator: Devesh Singh, Barenbrug USA, Director of Research

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2016 Annual Report

Swath grazing is a management practice that can be used to extend the grazing season and to reduce feed, labor and manure handling costs for cattle producers. The practice may also eliminate or reduce the costs for corral cleaning, manure spreading and feed handling. Producers have looked at a number of crops for silage production. Oats, barley and triticale have traditionally been the most widely used cereals for swath grazing and silage. Livestock may be able to obtain all or part of their winter feed requirements through swath grazing. The objective of this study was to test annual forage crop types and their mixtures on forage production for beef swath grazing & dairy silage. The project is being carried out in collaboration with Barenbrug Seed Company, which is based out of the States.


The study site was at the Fairview Research Farm (NW5-82-3W6) on RR #35, MD of Fairview. Soil test at 0-6” soil depth done at Exova laboratory (Edmonton) prior to seeding showed an organic matter content of 7.1%, a pH of 5.5 (acidic), an electrical conductivity of 0.35 dS/m and a base saturation of 55.2%. The field was cultivated before seeding.

Thirteen (13) treatments which are listed in Table 1 were arranged in a randomized complete block design in 4 replications. We used small plots measuring 11.04 m2 (118.8 ft2).

The 13 treatments consisted of 5 mono-crops & 8 crop mixtures and their respective seeding rates for the purpose of testing them for beef swath grazing and dairy silage are shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1. Annual crops and their mixtures for beef swath grazing and dairy silage

Seeding was done on May 18 with a 6-row Fabro plot drill at 9” row spacing. For treatments with 2 or more crops in the mixtures, the individual seed was weighed separately and pre-mixed before seeding.

Fertility according to soil tests (actual lbs/acre): 91 N + 36 P + 72 K + 0 S (broadcast). Soil test showed adequate amount of S for the crops, so S was not applied.

Spraying: Roundup WeatherMAX® was used as pre-emergent for the entire trial 7 days after seeding. In-crop spraying was done with 2, 4 - D 700 at 0.35 L/acre on 10 treatments, these were treatments which con-tained mono-crop cereals. No in-crop spraying was done on treatments consisting of mixtures of cereals and brassicas (Treatments 4, 5 & 6).

Harvest stage for dry matter yield and quality (forage quality is not provided in this report):

1. Barley mono-crop or treatments with barley in the mixtures - barley soft dough stage (July 29)

2. Oats mono-crop or treatments with oats in the mixtures - oats milk stage (August 02)

3. Triticale mono-crop or treatments with triticale in the mixtures - triticale late milk stage (August 16)

4. Ryegrasses (mono-crops only)- July 25 (68 days after seeding)

Results & Discussion

Forage Moisture & Dry Matter Yield

The forage moisture content was 65% and above for 10 out of the 13 treatments tested. The forage moisture content at harvest was lower (<65%) for Treatment 9 (mono-crop triticale), Treatment 10 (triticale + Green Spirit ryegrass) and Treatment 12 (mono crop Gulf annual ryegrass) than other treatments.

Forage DM yield was higher for Treatment 9 (dairy silage with mono-crop Triticale, 9080 lbs/acre) and Treatment 6 (beef swath grazing with oats, Green Spirit and Barsica mixtures, 8929 lbs/acre) than other treatments.

Four (Treatments 9, 6, 7 & 4) of the 13 treatments had >4.0 tons DM yield/acre. All mono-crop annual and Italian ryegrasses including the two checks (Treatments 12 & 13) were in the bottom three.

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