Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye
Collaborating Producer: Thomas & Laura Claydon (MD of Smoky River)
From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2014 Annual Report
Soil conservation, nutrient sequestration, weed suppression, improved soil health, quality feeds, among others, are reasons why cover crop usage is increasing in parts of the Peace Country region. The crop species we can use for cover crops and grazing is extensive. Common choices for covers include warm and cool season crops such as proso millet, sudangrass, sunflower, oats, annual ryegrass, peas, hairy vetch, brassicas, and clovers. Diverse mixes can serve the purpose of improving soil health, holding soil, and providing cheap forage. The decision to use cover crops as part of a grazing strategy will differ from farm to farm. Some important questions that producers ask include (1) how might a cover crop mixture affect both soil water use and soil quality? (2) how will a cover crop mixture affect forage yield & quality, and economic return? (3) what does each plant functional group in the mixture contribute to overall soil quality? The present demonstration was carried out to assess the benefits of cover crop cocktails mixtures in beef cattle forage production systems.
The demonstration site was at Thomas & Laura Claydon’s farm, MD of Smoky River. Demonstration strip design was used on a 5-acre piece of land. The soil analysis (0-6” soil depth) done by Exova laboratory, Edmonton showed a pH of 6.3 and an OM of 6.8%. The analysis also showed that the soil was deficient in N and P. We seeded crop mixes containing 5-8 crop species against a single species oat crop (please see table below).
The site used had been under mixed forage hay production for 15 years and had barley seeded the year be-fore the trial. The site was worked prior to seeding. Seeding was done with a Melroe disc drill (14-ft wide) at 6” row spacing on June 13. No fertilizer was applied. Assessment of each plot was done to account for the presence of all crop types seeded in a particular mixture.
Harvesting of the plots for estimation of forage yield was done on August 12 when barley was at the soft dough stage. Forage samples were analyzed for feed quality according to standard laboratory procedures by Central Testing Laboratory Ltd., Winnipeg, Manitoba.