Perennial Forage Demonstration in Fairview: Yield & Feed Value Following Second Year of Cutting

Location: Fairview Research Farm

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2012 Annual Report


The forage demonstration plots in Fairview continue to provide us with necessary data on agronomic adaptation, dry matter (DM) yield and nutritive value of the over 40 forage species and varieties. The PCBFA Annual Reports for 2010 and 2011 have information regarding seeding, management and some reports on DM yield and quality as well as the selenium contents of selected forage varieties. In 2011, all plots were divided into three sections. These sections were cut at different times during the summer months of 2011 and 2012.


Management and Measurement in 2012

There are 2 separate blocks of grasses and legumes. Varieties used for comparison were: Fleet meadow bromegrass & Carlton smooth bromegrass (grasses); Anik, Peace & Algonquin alfalfa varieties (legumes).


Fertility - Soil tests were carried out from both blocks in early spring at a depth of 0-6”. The test results showed sufficient amounts of N, P, K and S for the year 2012, so no additional fertilizer was applied in 2012.


Weed Control – The plots were sprayed on June 4, 2012. The grass block was sprayed with Curtail M at the rate of 0.7L/ac @ 40L water volume and the legume block was sprayed with Basagran Forte at the rate of 0.91L/ac at 45L water volume. Hand weeding of plots was done twice.


Winter Kill - Notes on winter kill were taken early in the spring by assessing crown and root health and any damages done. Plants suffering from winterkill would normally have soft and fibrous crowns.


Plant Growth, Cutting and Recovery Following Cutting Treatments – In 2011, each forage variety plot measuring 2.5m x 17m was divided into three sections. The first, second and third sections were respectively cut in June (1 cut - June only), June & August (2 cuts) and August (1 cut - August only) for DM yield and feed value determination. Forage sampling for DM yield estimation was carried out using two randomly placed 0.5m x 0.5m quadrats in the cut section. Following forage sampling with quadrats, a sickle mower was used to cut the remainder of the cut section. Forage samples of the 6 top grasses and top 7 legumes were selected based on DM yields, winter kill and early spring growth were sent for feed tests. The following forages from the late cut (August only) were analyzed for selenium content: Tall fescue, Anik alfalfa, Carlton smooth bromegrass, Fleet meadow bromegrass, Algonquin alfalfa, and timothy.


Results and Discussion

Early Spring Visual Observation and Notes

Grasses –For plots seeded in 2010, the forage plots showed that August only cut sections of the plots were actually showing more growth than the June only and June & August (2 cut) cutting treatments. Interestingly enough, the June only cut actually seemed to have suffered more over winter and spring on average than the June & August or August only cut, which had less regrowth going into the fall and winter. Excess growth on the June only cut sections seemed to have actually inhibited the regrowth of some grass species considerably enough that there was very little to no new growth in the spring. Early spring growth was better for Carlton smooth bromegrass, Grindstad timothy, AC Rocket smooth bromegrass and Goliath Crested wheatgrass.


Legumes– Unlike the grasses (right) for the plots seeded in 2010, the June only cut for legumes generally have more new growth than the June & August, and August only cuts, however, the June & August cut had surpassed the August only cut. Generally, the clover plots sustained some loss to winter kill and also had little or no growth early in the spring. All alfalfa plots showed little or no signs of winter kill. Anik alfalfa had the fastest growth going early in the spring.


Forage DM Yield

Plots seeded in 2010 (Figure 1 & 2) Grasses (Figure 1) - For June only cut, only 3 of the 14 grasses had >5700 lb DM/acre. AC Goliath crested wheatgrass had the highest DM (7216 lb/acre), followed by Palaton reed canary grass with 6004 lb DM /acre and then Kirk crested wheatgrass with 5755 lb DM /acre. Other grasses had <5000 lb DM /acre.


For 2 cuts (June & August), the DM yield was highest for AC Knowles hybrid bromegrass (10037 lb DM/acre). AC Goliath crested wheatgrass, Fleet meadow bromegrass, Kirk crested wheatgrass and Derby timothy had between 9416 and 9779 lb DM/acre. Other grasses had <8600 lb DM/acre. Both Barolex tall fescue and AC Nordic orchard grass had far less DM yields from 2 cuts per year (June & August) compared to other grasses.


However, when cutting was delayed till early August (August only), Palaton reed canary grass had the most DM yield, followed by AC Goliath crested wheatgrass, AC Knowles hybrid bromegrass and Kirk crested wheatgrass in that order. Palaton reed canary grass stands remained green with good leaf retention far into late summer, even after seed maturity, hence the reason for its highest DM yield in August only cut.


Generally, Barolex tall fescue, Pradel meadow tall fescue and AC Nordic orchard grass all performed poorly in terms of early spring growth and DM yield. Overall, 2cuts (June + August) seem to give higher DM yields than just one cut in June or August.

Legumes (Figure 2) - For the June only cut, 6 of the legumes (2220 Blend, Peace, Anik, Algonquin and Equinox alfalfa varieties and Windsor cicer milkvetch) had >6000 lb DM/acre. Other legumes had <5800 lb DM/acre. Multi 5301 and Equinox alfalfa varieties had about 50% DM yields resulting from either first (June) or second cut (August). However, for Spredor 4 and Hybrid Force 400 alfalfa varieties and Windsor cicer milkvetch, the second cut (August) contributed 60% or more towards total DM yields.


For August only cut, Tower ST, Multi 5301, 53V52, Spredor 4 and AC Blue J alfalfa varieties, and the two cicer milkvetch varieties (Windsor and Oxley II) all had >5000 lb DM/acre. Multi 5301 alfalfa variety had the highest DM yield with 6544 lb DM/acre and Juliet red clover had the lowest yield with 2143 lb DM/acre.


Forage Nutritive

Value Plots seeded in 2010 (Table 1)

Grasses - Protein was highest for AC Knowles hybrid bromegrasss (21.2% CP) in June only cut. When cut twice (June & August), Palaton reed canary grass consistently had the highest protein contents (16.7% in June and 18.3% in August). When cutting was delayed until August (August only harvest), protein contents were generally lower than 10% for the grasses. For August only cut, both AC Goliath and Kirk crested wheatgrass varieties <6.2% protein. Overall, June only cut had higher protein content than when cuts were made in June & August or August only. With the exception of August only cut, the different cutting times had sufficient amounts of protein required for dry pregnant and lactating cows. Also, the top 6 selected grasses for feed value test showed adequate amount of protein for these classes of cows. Generally, energy (TDN) contents of the grasses were below 60% TDN. Palaton reed canary grass appeared to have a higher energy content than other grasses regardless of cutting times.


Legumes—For June only harvest, Multi 5301 alfalfa had the highest protein (25.8% CP). For the 2 cuts (June & August), Algonquin alfalfa had the highest protein (30.1% CP) in June, while Windsor cicer milkvetch had the highest protein (20.3% CP) in August. Windsor cicer milkvetch also had the highest protein (17.1% CP) for August only cut. With the exception of AC Blue-J and 2220 blend alfalfa varieties, all the legumes regardless of cutting times had protein contents that far exceeded the protein requirements of dry pregnant and lactating cows. Algonquin alfalfa had substantial amount of energy (65.2% TDN) from the first (June) of the two (June & August) cuts. For most legumes, energy contents were lower in August only cuts than for the other cuts.

Performance of Forages Seeded in 2011

For the grasses established in 2011 and cut for the first time this year (2012), Hipro orchard grass out yielded the other five varieties at any particular cut. All the six grasses generally had higher DM when for August only than for June only. Hipro orchard grass remained very green throughout the year and did not flower much.


For the legumes, June only cut gave higher DM yield than August only cut. Rangelander alfalfa had the most DM yield from the 2 cuts (June & August).

Three top grass varieties were analyzed for feed value. The feed test results showed that August only had reduced protein content particularly for Promesse timothy and Manchar smooth brome grass. Hipro orchard grass consistently had >16.0% protein. The energy contents of the grasses were generally higher for the June regrowth (June & August cuts). Both protein and energy (TDN) contents from the tested legumes were generally lower for August only cut compared to other cutting times. Forage Ca and P contents of forages seeded in 2010 (Table 2)

The forage Ca content for grasses varied from 0.17% Ca for Fleet meadow bromegrass at the 2nd cut to 0.15% Ca for AC Goliath and Kirk crested wheatgrass varieties when cutting was delayed till August. Except for AC Goliath and Kirk crested wheatgrass which were cut in August (August only), the forage Ca contents of grasses at any particular cutting time was sufficient for the requirements of dry gestating cows.


All the selected top 7 legumes forage Ca contents far exceeded all the requirements of different classes of beef cattle.


The forage P contents were generally lower for August only cut for all grasses and these were not enough to meet the P requirement of any production state of beef cattle.


Similarly, the forage P contents were generally lower for August only cut for all legumes and these were also not enough to meet the P requirement of any classes of beef cattle.


Generally, because of the inconsistencies of the forages Ca and P contents in meeting beef cattle requirements during growing, finishing, pregnancy and lactation particularly for the grasses, some form of mineral supplementation offered as free choice would be required when feeding these forages.

Forage Selenium Content

No selenium content was found in the selected top 6 grasses or top 7 legumes for August only cut. We did not send out samples for selenium testing for other cutting times, so at this time, we are not able to say if earlier cuts or double cuts would have any significant effects on selenium content or not. Efforts will be made in future to monitor forage selenium content at different cutting times.

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