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Improving the Forage Energy Content of Cover Crop Cocktails for Beef Cattle through Seeding Rates

Project Site: Fairview Research Farm

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

Multispecies annual crop mixtures have recently become more popular in northern Alberta. Producers need information on the performance of mixtures to implement successful production/farming operations. The findings from recent PCBFA trials, as well as feed test reports on cocktails from producers’ farms, appeared to show an average of 66% total digestible nutrients (TDN). Such feed tests show that cocktails would always have sufficient TDN for a dry gestating beef cow and may occasionally fall short of the requirements of a lactating beef cow. For backgrounding and finishing calves, cocktails have always had inadequate TDN. The objective of the study was to determine seeding rates that optimize forage production and improve TDN for mature and young beef cattle, while simultaneously maintaining diversity of species for maximum ecosystem benefits.


The study site was at the Fairview Research Farm (NW5-82-3W6) on RR #35, MD of Fairview. The initial soil tests at 0-6” depth showed an organic matter of 7.1%, a pH of 5.4, and an electrical conductivity of 0.44 dS/m. The soil nutrient analysis showed the following: soil nitrate-N = 96 lbs/acre, P = 53 lbs/acre, K = 243 lbs/acre and sulfate-S = 17 lbs/acre. Nine (9) cover crop cocktails (CCCs #1-#9) and an oat crop (CDC Haymaker oat - check) ) were tested at 2 seeding rates. The seeding rates consisted of what is considered a normal seeding rate (N) for most cocktails in the area and a high seeding rate (H, which was 150% of normal seeding). We had 4 replications. Table 1 on the next page shows the crop mixtures tested at the 2 seeding rates.

Seeding was done on May 28 with a 6-row plot drill at 9” row spacing. No fertilizer was applied during or after seeding. Roundup was used as apre-emergent herbicide. No in-crop spraying was done. Hand weeding was done on July 6.

Harvesting for forage yield determination and quality analysis was done on August 16 at the milk stage for oats. Two composite forage samples were sent to A & L laboratory in Ontario for quality determination.

The data for forage yield and quality were analyzed with ARM statistical software.