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Corn Intercrops to Improve Forage Protein Content for Beef Cattle

Trial Site: Fairview Research Farm

Research Program Manager: Dr Akim Omokanye

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2018 Annual Report

Corn forage can fit well in the grazing system, as it meets the nutritive composition requirements for many categories of cattle, particularly those of beef cows in mid-and late-stage pregnancy. Corn forage protein levels would not normally be adequate for beef cattle diet at all physiological stages. Corn forage CP and fibre content may decrease from silking to milk–dough stage. In addressing the shortfall in corn forage CP for both young and mature beef cattle, producers may add some form of CP supplement or good legume hay. Corn intercropping with legumes or other annual crops is an option to consider for improving forage corn CP content at minimal cost. Intercropping allows efficient use of resources, which allows a reduction of production costs and offers greater total forage yield, as well as improved forage nutritive value. The objective of this study was to compare corn intercropped with annual legumes and non-legume crops to corn monocrop in terms of forage yield and quality. This report provides a summary of a 2-year trial (2017 and 2018).


The trial site was at the Fairview Research Farm in 2017 and 2018.

A randomized complete block design with four replicates was used each year. The following eight treatments were investigated:

CM: Hybrid Pioneer 3944 corn (2000 corn heat units, CHUs). This was seeded as a monocrop (Check)

C-FP: Corn intercropped with CDC Horizon forage pea

C-CC: Corn intercropped with crimson clover

C-HV: Corn intercropped with hairy vetch

C-FB: Corn intercropped with Tabasco fababean

C-SB: Corn intercropped with soybean variety TH 33003, with 2400 CHUs

C-TR: Corn intercropped with tillage radish

C-ACM: Corn intercropped with the following annual crop mixture:

The C-ACM seeding rates were 19.2 lbs/acre barley (variety: CDC Maverick), 3.20 lbs/acre peas, 1.60 lbs/acre hairy vetch, 0.40 lb/acre crimson clover, 0.40 lb/acre Winfred forage brassica, 0.40 lb/acre green spirit Italian ryegrass, and 0.40 lb/acre sunflower.

The same Hybrid Pioneer 3944 corn was used for treatments 2 to 7 above.

Seeding was done with a plot drill equipped with disc type openers on May 25, 2017 and on May 28, 2018. The corn in all treatments was seeded at 27 inch row spacing, to achieve final stands of about 32,000 plants/ acre. Between rows of corn, we seeded two rows of companion crops, which were 9 inches apart. Both corn and the companion crops were seeded simultaneously. The companion crops in the corn-intercropping treatments were seeded at 40% of their respective recommended monocrop seeding rates.