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Forage Yield & Nutritive Value of Forage Cereal Crops at Teepee Creek

Project Site: Mack Erno's Farm - Teepee Creek

Research Program Manager: Dr. Akim Omokanye From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2018 Annual Report


Cereal crops can successfully be used as a source of forage for livestock. In the Peace Country, the most common cereals used for forage are oats and barley, and to some extent, spring triticale. Both barley and oats are used for green feed, silage, or swath grazing in monocultures and mixed stands. Cereal varieties that yield well for grain and straw should also produce acceptable forage yields. Stage of maturity at harvest is the most important determining factor for the yield and quality of a cereal crop when used as forage. For instance, late milk stage has been recommended for oats, and soft dough stage for barley for greenfeed or silage. The present report looks at several varieties of barley and oats in comparison to some potential alternative forage-type crops such as proso millet and soft white wheat.

Methods

The study site was at Mack Erno’s farm in Teepee Creek. The site had canola the year before and it was sprayed with a pre-seed burnoff with Express + Roundup before seeding in 2018. Soil tests from 0-6” showed an organic matter of 5.2%, a pH of 5.5, and an electrical conductivity of 0.37 dS/m. The soil had 73 lbs N/acre, 29 lbs P/ac, 398 lbs K/ac and 25 lbs S/ac.

We used a randomized complete block design with 4 replicates to test the following 12 crops:

1. CDC Maverick barley - seeded at 300 plants/m2 (27.8 plants/ft2)

2. CDC Austenson barley - seeded at 300 plants/m2 (27.8 plants/ft2)

3. CDC Haymaker oats - seeded at 300 plants/m2 (27.8 plants/ft2)

4. Oravena oats (an organic milling oat) - seeded at 300 plants/m2 (27.8 plants/ft2)

5. CDC SO-I oats - seeded at 300 plants/m2 (27.8 plants/ft2)

6. CDC Seabiscuit oats (an organic milling oat) - seeded at 300 plants/m2 (27.8 plants/ft2)

7. Bunker triticale - seeded at 370 plants/m2 (34.3 plants/ft2)

8. White proso millet - seeded at 25 lbs/acre

9. AC Andrew soft white wheat - seeded at 370 plants/m2 (34.3 plants/ft2)

10. AAC Jatharia VB soft white wheat - seeded at 370 plants/m2 (34.3 plants/ft2)

11. Prima fall rye - seeded at 75 lbs/acre

12. Green Spirit Italian ryegrass - seeded at 12 lbs/acre

Seeding Date: May 31

Seeding method: 6-row Fabro plot drill with 9” row spacing

Fertility (actual lbs/acre): 45 N + 58 P + 44 K + 16 S

Roundup was used for pre-seed burn off. In-crop spraying was done with 0.17 L/acre Prestige XC A+ 0.80 L/acre Prestige XC B.

Harvesting for forage dry matter (DM) yield determination and quality analysis was done on August 23 at soft-dough stage for barley & white proso millet, and late milk stage for oats, triticale & soft white wheat. Two composite forage samples per crop were sent to A & L Laboratory in Ontario for quality determination.


Results

Forage Dry Matter (DM) Yield

AC Andrew soft white wheat had the highest forage DM yield (9084 lbs/acre), followed closely by CDC Maverick barley with 8975 lbs/acre (Table 1). Four of the 12 crops tested (AC Andrew soft white wheat, CDC Maverick barley, CDC Austenson barley, and CDC Seabiscuit oats) had >8000 lbs DM/acre. Other crops had lower forage DM yield with both Prima fall rye and Green Spirit Italian ryegrass producing far less forage DM yield than the other crops.

Table 1. Forage DM yield, crude protein (CP), and CP fractions of forage-type crops tested at Teepee Creek in 2018.

* indicates statistical significant (P<0.05) treatment effect and NS means no significant treatment effect (P>0.05)

Forage Crude Protein (CP)

Both Prima fall rye and Green Spirit Italian ryegrass showed significantly higher forage CP (14.4-14.8% CP) than the other crops tested (Table 1). Following that, the next highest were bunker triticale and white proso millet with 11.6-12.3% CP.


All crops tested here showed sufficient CP for a dry gestating beef cow in mid pregnancy (7%) and late pregnancy (9%). For a lactating beef cow, only 4 of the tested crops (Prima fall rye, Green Spirit Italian ryegrass, triticale, and white proso millet) met the 11% CP required. Should any of the 8 crops that had less than 11% CP be used for a lactating beef cow, some form of protein supplementation would be needed.

Forage Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN)

All tested crops recorded >60% forage TDN, with all (except for Prima fall rye) meeting, and in most cases exceeding, the TDN requirements of a lactating beef cow as well (Table 2).


Forage Minerals (Table 3)

With the exception of AC Andrew soft white wheat, AAC Jatharia VB soft white wheat, and Oravena oats, which had 0.13-0.15% Ca, all crops tested had adequate Ca for a dry gestating beef cow (0.18%). Similarly, all crops (except for CDC Austenson) had sufficient P for a dry gestating beef cow. All crops were short of meeting the 0.58% Ca and 0.26% P required by a lactating beef cow.


The requirements of mature beef cattle for K, Mg, S, Fe, and Mn have all been met by all of the crops tested. Both Prima fall rye and Green Spirit Italian ryegrass had very high forage K content compared to other crops tested here. It is important to note that the combination of high K (over 1.75%), and/or low Ca (under 0.6%) and low Mg (under 0.3%) can lead to animal performance issues.

In general, because of the inconsistent ability of any of the crops tested here to completely meet the minerals analyzed (Ca, P, K, Mg, Na, S, Cu, Fe, Zn, Mn), some form of commercial mineral supplementation will be needed during feeding of these crops.

Conclusion

Generally, the barley, oat, and soft white wheat varieties tested here produced more forage DM yield than white proso millet, prima fall rye, and green spirit Italian ryegrass. AC Andrew soft white wheat compared very well with the oat and barley varieties used here. Though white proso millet, prima fall rye, and green spirit Italian ryegrass did not produce as much forage biomass as oats, barley, and triticale, they are still a good candidate for alternative forage production for livestock in the area. Because of the high forage CP, when used in cereal mixtures, both prima fall rye and green spirit Italian ryegrass should be able to help improve forage CP of oat and barley crops for greenfeed or silage, when fed to a lactating beef cow. Mineral supplementation would be needed when feeding any of the crops tested here to mature beef cattle.

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