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Forage Quality of Alternative Cereals, Italian and Annual Rygrasses, and Festulolium in High Prairie

Written by: Buthaina Al-Maqtari & Akim Omokanye,

Location: Bill Fevang's Farm - High Prairie

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2019 Annual Report

In the Peace Country region, cool season annual forage-type cereal crops such as barley, oats and triticale are well suited to the growing conditions and can provide emergency or supplementary forage for beef cattle production. These crops establish quickly after seeding and can provide pasture later in the growing season when perennial forage production is decreasing and demand is at its highest. Traditionally, oats and barley have been the most widely used annual cereal crops for forages and feed grains. The latest trend in the Peace has been to grow multispecies cover crop mixes (usually known as a cocktail) for use in livestock production and soil improvement by producers. The objectives of this study was to assess the performance of warm season annual forage-type cereal crops, Festulolium (a hybrid forage grass developed by crossing Meadow or Tall Fescue with Perennial or Italian Ryegrass), a variety of Italian ryegrass for forage production, and new varieties of oats, barley and triticale in the High Prairie area to determine their potential alternative crops to traditional cool season oat crop.


The study site was at Bill Fevang’s farm in High Prairie. The site had canola the year before (2018) and it was sprayed with a pre-seed burnoff before seeding in 2019.

Experimental Design: Randomized Complete Block Design with 4 replications.

A total of 21 cereals/annual grasses were tested as shown below:

1. MELQUARTO ITALIAN RYEGRASS - seeded at 12 lbs/acre

2. PERUN FESTILOLIUM - seeded at 20 lbs/acre

3. RED SIBERIAN MILLET - seeded at 25 lbs/acre

4. FRIKIN ITALIAN RYEGRASS - seeded at 12 lbs/acre

5. SORGHUM SUDAN GRASS - seeded at 30 lbs/acre

6. PARAMOUNT SOFT WHITE WHEAT (SWW) - 34.3 plants/ft2

7. RED PROSO MILLET - seeded at 25 lbs/acre

8. ORE 3541M OATS - 27.8 plants/ft2

9. ORAVENA OATS - 27.8 plants/ft2

10. TETRABRAND ANNUAL RYEGRASS - seeded at 12 lbs/acre

11. BUNKER TRITICALE - 34.3 plants/ft2

12. ORE 3542M OATS - 27.8 plants/ft2

13. BREVIS TRITICALE - 34.3 plants/ft2

14. CIRCUIT SPRING TRITICALE - 34.3 plants/ft2

15. CDC OATS 50-1 - 27.8 plants/ft2

16. KONGSORE OATS - 27.8 plants/ft2

17. HAYMAKER OATS - 27.8 plants/ft2

18. AB ADVANTAGE BARLEY - 27.8 plants/ft2

19. JAPANESE MILLET - seeded at 25 lbs/acre

20. CDC BOW BARLEY - 27.8 plants/ft2

21. ARBORG OATS - 27.8 plants/ft2

Seeding date was on June 7. The seeds were sown using a Fabro plot drill equipped with disc-type openers on 9” row spacing. Six rows that were 8 m long were sown per plot. Seeding depth was 0.75”.

Fertility (actual lbs/acre): 57 lbs N + 47 lbs P + 30 K + 13 lbs S.

We applied Prestige XCA + Prestige XCB as an in-crop herbicide to control weeds.

Harvesting for forage dry matter (DM) yield determination and quality analysis was completed on August 28. Forage samples were sent to A & L Laboratory in Ontario for quality determination.


Energy Levels

Energy, as Total Digestible Energy (TDN), is one of the most crucial nutrients for beef cattle. In this study, the forage TDN was generally above 60%.

Beef cow requires 55% TDN in mid pregnancy, 60% TDN in late pregnancy, and 65% after calving. Among the 21 cereals tested, both Perun Festulolium and Melquatro Italian Ryegrass had higher than recommended %TDN levels for mature and young beef cows with a TDN% 73.56 and 72.43 respectively (Table 1). In most cases, other cereal/annual grass varieties met the energy requirement for dry, gestating, and lactating cows, with red proso millet having the lowest TDN% of 62.21.

The net energy for maintenance (NEM) and net energy for gain (NEM) are used to formulate diets for growing and finishing cattle. All of the cereals tested met the required NEM and NEG level for beef cows. Perun Festilolium had the highest NEM of 1.685 Mcal/kg.

Protein Levels

The forage crude protein (CP) was significantly higher in Melquatro Italian Ryegrass (14.0% CP) followed by Perun Festulolium (12.8% CP) and Red Siberian millet (12.7% CP). Arborg had the lowest CP of (7.73% CP). Among all crops tested, only Melquatro Italian ryegrass had adequate CP content for growing calves and lactating cows. Other varieties, except for Perun Festulolium, Red Siberian and Firkin, were below the sufficient CP content of 12 - 14% that is required for mature and young beef cattle.


The forage macro minerals tested in this study (Ca, P, K, Mg, Na, and S) were mostly significantly higher in Japanese Millet when compared to other crops (Table 1). Only Japanese Millet met the Ca level recommended for mature and young beef cattle with Ca% of 0.58. All Cereal varieties meet the 0.26 P% level required for lactating calves, except Kongsore oats, Haymaker oats, AB Advantage barley, CDC bow barley and Arborg oats. The required K levels for both mature and young cattle were met in all cereals tested. Many crops did not meet the Na and S levels for mature and young beef cows (Table 1). Oats generally seemed to have higher forage Na than other crops.

For forage trace minerals, Perun Festulolium produced higher Fe and Mn than all other cereal crops with 142 ppm and 58 ppm respectively (Table 1). All crops produced high Fe levels which exceeds the level required for young and mature beef cattle. However, all cereals, other than Oravena oats, did not meet the 10 ppm Cu content required for young and mature beef cattle. Japanese Millet had the highest Zn level of 54.9 ppm, which far exceeded the 30 ppm Zn recommended for young and mature beef cattle.

Forage digestibility and dry matter intake decrease as the detergent fibers (ADF & NDF) increase. Melquatro Ryegrass and Perun Festulolium had far lower ADF & NDF than the other alternative cereals tested (Table 1), indicating that they are of better quality than other crops tested within this study.


Perun Festulolium and Melquatro Italian Ryegrass have better forage quality when compared to other alternative cereal varieties tested in this study. In terms of energy and protein content, both Perun Festulolium and Melquatro Italian Ryegrass exceeded the required TDN and CP level for young and mature beef cattle. The two crops also produced lower detergent fibers than all other crops. In terms of micro and trace minerals, Japanese millet met most of the mineral requirements for young and beef cattle. Arborg oats had the least forage protein. Oats generally seemed to have higher forage Na than other crops.

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