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Peace Common Oat & Barley Varieties Versus Soft White Wheat Varieties for Silage

Updated: Jun 26

Trial Site: Fairview Research Farm

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2017 Annual Report

Winter feed costs typically represent the largest portion of cow/calf expenses. In the Peace, oats and barley are the two most commonly used cool season cereals in beef cattle production. They are grown for greenfeed, swath grazing, pastures and silage, and very recently, they are being included in cocktail mixtures. This year (2017), PCBFA tested several barley and oat varieties commonly grown in the Peace for greenfeed/silage against 4 soft white wheat varieties and bunker triticale. There is a lot more soft white wheat being used for silage in central/southern Alberta as it handles stresses better than barley and stands better. The down side is that harvest of soft white wheat is quite a bit later than traditional barley silage, but producers have reported 25-50% higher yields from soft white wheat grown for silage in those areas.


1. To assess forage yield and quality of common oat and barley varieties in parts of the Peace with newly registered varieties, which have been used as checks.

2. To compare forage-type oat and barley varieties that are commonly grown in the Peace with soft white wheat and bunker triticale for forage yield and beef cattle nutrient requirements.


  • Project Site: Fairview Research Farm (NW5-82-3W6) on RR #35, MD of Fairview.

  • Previous crop: Alfalfa for over 10 years before spraying out in 2016 (chemical fallow)

  • Site soil information (0-6” depth): Soil tests done at Exova laboratory (Edmonton) prior to seeding showed pH = 5.8 and soil organic matter = 7.0 %.

  • The field was cultivated (disked and harrowed) before seeding.

  • Experimental Design: Randomized complete block design in 4 replications.

Crops tested: the treatments consisted of 6 oats, 5 barley, 4 soft-white wheat and bunker triticale as shown below:




  3. DERBY

  4. ORAVENA (new organic oat, Check)

  5. CDC HAYMAKER (Check)


  1. CHAMPION - 2 row

  2. LEGACY - 6 row

  3. METCALFE - 2 row

  4. CDC AUSTENSON- 2 row

  5. CDC MAVERICK- 2 row (Check)

Soft white wheat:







Seeding Date & Rate: Seeding was done on May 30 at 300 plants/m2 (27.8 plants/ft2 ) for oats and barley, and 370 plants/m2 (34.2 plants/ft2 ) for soft white wheat and triticale.

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

Fertility (actual lbs/acre): 89 N + 50 P + 29 K + 24 S

Plot size: 11.04 m2 (118.8 ft2 )

Spraying: In-crop spraying was done once with Curtail M (800 ml/acre) + Fluroxyoyr (170ml/acre)

Plant height, lodging, forage yield & forage quality were determined at the following crop growth stages:

1. Oats - milk stage

2. Barley -soft dough stage

3. Soft white wheat -late milk/early dough

4. Triticale -late milk

Results and Interpretation

Forage Dry Matter (DM) Yield

The highest forage DM yield was from AAC Indus (10,240 lbs DM/acre). The 4 soft white wheat varieties and Bunker triticale seemed to have higher forage DM yield than all oat and barley varieties tested here. The 4 soft white wheat varieties and Bunker triticale produced >9000 lbs DM/acre, compared to 6830-8600 lbs DM/acre for oat and barley varieties as well as their checks.

For the oat varieties, CDC SO-I had the lowest forage DM yield. Metcalfe barley produced the lowest forage DM yield among the barley varieties tested.

The soft white wheat varieties tested here yielded 660-3410 lbs DM/acre more than oat varieties. The differences in forage DM yield between soft white wheat varieties and barley were 885-3301 lbs DM/acre in favour of soft white wheat varieties.

The forage DM yield of Bunker triticale as % of oats and barley were respectively 112-140% and 115-138%.

Forage Quality

Crude Protein (CP): The forage CP varied from 9.40% CP for bunker triticale to 12.7% CP for Champion barley. Except for the AC Andrew variety of soft white wheat (12.1% CP), barley varieties had higher forage CP values than oats, soft white wheat and bunker triticale.

Protein is a building block, and is a critical nutrient in all beef cattle diets. Although protein supplementation is often a high cost item in beef cattle feeding programs, sometimes protein supplementation is needed to meet the animal’s nutrient requirements. Providing adequate protein in beef cattle diets is important for animal health and productivity as well as ranch profitability.

The Beef Cow Rule of Thumb with protein is 7-9-11, which means an average mature beef cow requires a ration with CP of 7% in mid pregnancy, 9% in late pregnancy and 11% after calving. All varieties of oats, barley, soft white wheat and triticale tested here had adequate CP for dry gestating beef cows in mid to late pregnancy. For lactating beef cows, CDC Haymaker oat, Ruffian oat, Champion barley, CDC Maverick barley, Legacy barley, Metcalfe barley and AC Andrew soft white wheat met the 11% CP needed by this category of beef cows.

Signs of protein deficiency include reduced appetite, weight loss, poor growth, depressed reproductive performance, and reduced milk production.

Energy: Energy is probably the most important nutritional consideration in beef cattle production in cold climates. Energy provides the body with the ability to do work. Work includes growth, lactation, reproduction, movement and feed digestion. Energy is the nutrient required by cattle in the greatest amount, and usually accounts for the largest proportion of feed costs.

The total digestible nutrients (TDN) and other forms of energy (net energy for lactation, NEL ; net energy for gain, NEG; net energy for maintenance, NEM) measured here had similar values for all barley varieties.

The TDN from all crops tested here was generally above 63%. Barley varieties seemed to have slightly highly TDN than varieties of oats, soft white wheat and triticale. Bunker triticale had similar TDN to oats.

All crops tested had adequate TDN for a dry gestating beef cow, which needs 55% TDN at the second trimester and 60% TDN at third-trimester. For a lactating beef cow, which requires 65% TDN, all varieties of barley and soft white wheat met and in most cases exceeded the TDN requirement of a nursing beef cow. All varieties of oats and bunker triticale fell short of meeting the 65% TDN needed by a lactating beef cow.

All crop varieties tested had more than the recommended NEM for mature beef cattle (1.19-1.28 Mcal/kg) and were within the 1.08-2.29 Mcal/kg required by growing and finishing calves. Similarly, all crop varieties were within the 0.53-1.37 Mcal/kg NEG needed by growing and finishing calves.

Minerals: Macro minerals are those that are required in relatively large amounts. This group consists of Ca, P, Mg, S, K and salt (sodium chloride). The forage Ca content was highest for Legacy barley (0.43% Ca) and lowest for AAC Paramount soft white wheat (0.17% Ca). The forage P, K, Mg & S contents were not significantly different for crop varieties tested.

All crop varieties had sufficient forage Ca and Mg for dry gestating beef cows.

The requirements of K and S by mature beef cattle were met by all crops tested.

The forage Na content was generally higher for oats than barley, soft white wheat and triticale. Varieties of oats and barley tested here exceeded the 0.06-0.08% Na needed by dry gestating beef cows and 0.10% Na required by a lactating beef cow. All soft white wheats and triticale fell short of meeting the requirements of mature beef cattle.

Overall, all oats and 3 barley varieties (Champion, CDC Maverick and Legacy barley) were able to completely meet the requirements of Ca, P, K, Mg & S needed by a dry gestating beef cow. Other crop varieties would fall short of providing enough of these minerals to all categories of cattle.

Essential trace minerals are necessary for the well being of the animal. These are needed in sufficient quantities to promote health and to optimize production and reproduction. All trace minerals are toxic when fed in excessive quantities. In this study, the requirements of Fe (except for Bunker triticale & AAC Indus soft white wheat) and Zn (except for Oravena oats) have both been met by all crop varieties tested here. The Mn requirement by mature beef cattle (40 ppm) was mostly met by crop varieties tested.

All crop varieties did not have sufficient forage Cu for mature beef cattle (10 ppm).

Relative Feed Value (RFV)- A prediction of feeding value that combines estimated intake (NDF) and estimated digestibility (ADF) into a single index. In this study, Bunker triticale, barley and soft white wheat had higher RFVs than oats.


The common varieties of oats and barley grown in the Peace tested here compared well with the newly registered varieties in terms of forage yield and quality. However, the newly registered oats or barley may in some cases have slightly higher forage quality indicators than their counterparts. For instance CDC haymaker oats seemed to have higher forage CP than other oats. Bunker triticale had more forage DM than oats and barley. Overall, the soft white wheat varieties tested here yielded 660-3410 lbs DM/acre more than oat varieties. The differences in forage DM yield between soft white wheat varieties and barley were 885-3301 lbs DM/acre in favour of soft white wheat varieties. The forage DM yield of Bunker triticale as % of oats and barley was 112-140% and 115-138%, respectively.

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