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Annual Forage Crop Mixtures for Beef Swath Grazing & Dairy Silage

Collaborator: Barenbrug, USA

Location: Fairview Research Farm, NW-5-82-3-W6 on RR #35, MD of Fairview

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2015 Annual Report

In the Peace, swath grazing annual cereal crops continues to be adopted by livestock producers as a method of extending the grazing season. Most producers use swath grazing to feed dry, mature beef cows that are in reasonable body condition. According to the Beef Cattle Research Council, research indicates that swath grazing can reduce total daily feeding cost per cow by 41 to 48%. This is based on a 78% reduction in yardage costs and a 25% reduction in feed costs. Daily feed costs range from $0.61 to $1.80 per cow, largely due to variability in the number of grazing days per acre. In collaboration with Barenbrug USA, PCBFA tested several varieties of annual crops with the objective of evaluating them for forage yield and quality for beef swath grazing and dairy silage. Barenbrug (USA) is an industry-leading plant breeding, seed production, research and marketing company.


The study site was at Fairview Research Farm (NW5-82-3W6) on RR #35, MD of Fairview. The site used was seeded to alfalfa and had been hayed for more than 10 years. Prior to seeding, soil tests at 0-6” soil depth done at Exova laboratory (Edmonton) showed an organic matter content of 3.0 % and a pH of 6.9. The site was sprayed with Roundup the fall before and worked in the spring before seeding. Thirteen (13) treatments consisting of 1 to 3 crops were arranged in a randomized complete block design in 3 replications in small plots. The check treatments (2) consisted of Gulf annual ryegrass seeded at 25 lb/acre and Tetilla annual ryegrass seeded at 25 lb/acre. Table 1 shows different treatments (crop types, crop mixtures & seeding rates).

Seeding was done on May 25 with a 6-row plot drill at 9 inch row spacing. Fertility according to soil test recommendations for balanced crop nutrition was 200 lb N + 96 lb P + 62 lb K + 75 lb S and applied at seeding. Roundup was used for burn off. In-crop spraying was done with 0.44 L/ha Prestige A + 1.98 L/ha Prestige B on all plots (except for plots that had T-Raptor hybrid rape (treatment 4) and brassica (treatment 6)).

Forage harvest was done on August 10, when Sundre barley was at the soft-dough stage and CDC Baler oats was at the milk stage. At harvest, samples were weighed for fresh weight and sub-samples (about 500 grams per plot) were dried for some days and later reweighed for dry matter (DM) content and DM yield estimation. Forage samples for quality tests were shipped to Rock River Laboratory Inc., Watertown, WI, US.

Moisture received from seeding to harvest was 4.57 inches. Fairview was very dry in 2015, and grasshopper infestation was very high.