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

Updated: May 25, 2023

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

Location: Fairview Research Farm, RR #35 (MD of Fairview)

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2013 Annual Report

Following the establishment of the perennial forage demonstration plots in 2010 in Fairview, the plots have continued to provide us with necessary data on agronomic adaptation, dry matter (DM) yield and nutritive value of the over 40 grass and legume species and varieties. The PCBFA Annual Reports for 2010, 2011 and 2012 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, each forage variety was divided into three sections. These sections were cut at different times during the summer months of 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Plots Management and Measurements in 2013

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

Fertility - Soil tests were carried out on both blocks in early spring at a depth of 0-6”. The test results showed sufficient amounts of N, P, K and S for plant growth, so no additional fertilizer was applied in 2013.

Weed Control – No weed control was necessary for any of the grasses. Hand pulling of a few weeds from both grass and legume plots was done early in the season. After the June cut, the whole legume block was sprayed with Basagran Forte at the rate of 0.91L/ac at 45L water volume.

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. In 2012 and 2013, the first, second and third sections were respectively cut: (1) in first week of June (1 cut only - June only), (2) first week of June & first week of August (2 cuts) and (3) first week of August (1 cut - August only) for DM yield and feed value determination. Following forage sampling with quadrants, a sickle mower was used to cut the remainder of the cut section. Six top grasses and top 7 legumes were selected based on DM yields, winter hardness and early spring growth and had their feed quality determined. 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

DM Yield

Grasses (Figure 1)

When cut in early June, Palaton reed canary grass, Carlton smooth brome, AC Rocket smooth brome and Promesse timothy were the top 4 grasses with significantly higher yield than other grasses. They had about 3.0 ton/acre more than most grasses.

The June DM yield (1st of 2-cut system) following cutting twice per year for 2 or 3 years in a row, was >2.5 ton/acre only for 7 grasses (Palaton reed canary grass, Derby timothy, AC Nordic orchard grass, Manchar smooth bromegrass, Promesse timothy, and Potamac orchard grass). The June DM yield (1st of 2-cut system) was <1.2 ton/acre 5 grasses (Barolex tall fescue, Fleet meadow bromegrass, Carlton smooth bromegrass, AC Rocket smooth bromegrass and AC Goliath crested wheatgrass). Consequently, August cut (2nd of 2-cut system) also declined for these 5 grasses. The total DM yield resulting from the 2-cut system (early June & early August) was higher for (5 top yielders): Palaton reed canary grass (5.13 ton.acre), Promesse timothy (5.05 ton/acre), Potamac orchard grass (4.90 ton/acre), Manchar smooth bromegrass (4.51 ton/acre) AC Success bromegrass.

The DM yields for Climax timothy, Grindstad timothy, Promesse timothy and Palaton reed canary grass were high-er (3.48-3.62) than other grasses when cutting in the season was delayed from June till early August (August only cut). Three of these top 4 grasses were timothy varieties, suggesting that timothy varieties may generally be better yielder later in the season than most other grasses tested here.

Generally, pooled across the 3 cutting treatments (June only, June & August, August only), the top 6 grasses for DM in 2013 were in the order of: Palaton reed canary grass > Promesse timothy > Manchar smooth bromegrass > Derby timothy > Grindstad timothy > AC Nordic orchard grass.

Legumes (Figure 2)

Cutting the legumes in early June (June only cut) produced DM yield varying from 1.58 ton/acre for Algonquin alfalfa to 3.81 ton/acre for Matrix alfalfa. The top 5 DM yielders (3.38-3.81 ton/acre) were in the order of: Matrix alfalfa > AC Caribou alfalfa > ST Tower alfalfa > Anik alfalfa > Hybrid force alfalfa.

For legumes cut twice in a year (2-cut system), the June cut (1st of 2-cut system) was higher (>3.00 ton/acre) for 7 legumes (6 alfalfa varieties: Hybrid 2410, 53V52, Equinox, Algonquin, Multi 5301 & Anik and sainfoin). The total DM yield (early June + early August cuts) for the top 7 was in the order: Alfalfa multi 5301 > Alfalfa Equinox > Hybrid alfalfa > Anik alfalfa > Windsor cicer milkvetch > alfalfa 53V52 > sainfoin.

Delaying cutting in the season until early August (for August only cut) resulted in lower DM yields than June only cut or 2-cut systems (June & August cuts). The top 6 legumes with better DM yield when cutting was made for August only cut were in the order of: AC Caribou alfalfa > Sainfoin > Anik alfalfa > Peace alfalfa > ST Tower alfalfa > Rambler alfalfa. The top 6 legumes pro-duced 2.61-3.49 ton DM/acre.

Generally, pooled across the 3 cutting treatments (June only, June & August, August only), the average DM yield for 2013 was higher for the following 6 legumes, which were in the order of: AC Caribou alfalfa > Multi 5301 alfalfa > Anik alfalfa > Hybrid 2410 alfalfa > Sainfoin > Peace alfalfa.

Forage Quality

Grasses (Table 1)

The forage quality indicators presented here are for the top 8 grasses based mostly on average DM yield ranking. With the exception of August only cut, the grasses mostly had protein in excess of a dry and lactating cow protein requirements. For the August only cut, only 3 (AC Success & Manchar smooth bromegrass, and Promesse timothy) of the top 8 grasses had sufficient protein requirements for both dry and lactating cows. AC Nordic orchard grass slightly fell short of what is needed by a dry gestating cow in the mid pregnancy stage. Other 4 grasses (except for Grindstad timothy) had sufficient amount of protein for a dry cow in the late pregnancy stage when cutting was delayed till August.

Even when cutting was delayed in the year until early August (August only cut), the following 4 grasses maintained a larger proportion of green leaves than other grasses: Promesse timothy, AC Success smooth bromegrass, Manchar smooth bromegrass and Palaton reed canary grass. The higher protein recorded in August only cut for the 4 grasses probably resulted from the presence of green leaves.

Forage Ca content varied from 0.15% for both Palaton canary grass (August only cut) & for AC Success smooth bromegrass (2nd of 2-cut system) to 0.43% for Promesse timothy grass (2nd of 2-cut system).

With the exception of Manchar & AC Success smooth bromegrasses and Promesse Timothy grass, forage P was generally low for August only cut (0.06 - 0.12%). The grasses that had lower P contents for August only cuts fell short of the P requirements for a dry gestating and lactating cow, which respectively require 0.16 and 0.26% P. Other cutting times mostly had forage P content which exceeded those required P by a dry gestating and lactating cow.

Forage Mg content varied from 0.14 to 0.31% for the grasses and cutting treatments imposed. A dry gestating cow requires 0.12%, an indication that this requirement has been met by these grasses regardless of when cutting was made. For a lactating cow, which requires 0.20% Mg, the Mg requirement was only occasionally met by grasses following cutting treatments.

Forage K was very high for all grasses regardless of cutting treatments and the requirements of a dry gestating and a lactating cow have adequately been met by the grasses.

Similarly, forage Na contents requirements by a dry gestating and lactating cow have been met.

Forage energy content (%TDN) of grasses was mostly sufficient for a cow in the mid-pregnancy stage, which requires 55% TDN. For a cow in the late-pregnancy stage, which requires 60% TDN, this requirement was only met by Palaton reed canary grass (June only cut), Carlton smooth bromegrass (2nd of 2-cut system) and Grindstad timothy (1st of 2-cut system).

Legumes (Table 2)

Forage protein content was mostly >11% for the 6 top selected legume varieties. This shows that the 7, 9 & 11% protein needed by a cow in the mid-pregnancy, late-pregnancy and lactating stages have been met and even exceeded by the legumes regardless of the cutting treatments imposed.

Forage Ca content varied from 0.52 to 1.95% for the 6 legumes, an indication that the needed amounts of Ca by a dry gestating (0.18%) and lactating cow (0.42%) were exceeded by the legumes. The P requirement by a dry gestating cow (0.16%) were met by the selected legumes but the legumes on a few occasions fell short of 0.26% P needed by a lactating cow. The requirements of Mg and K by a dry gestating cow both in the mid and late pregnancy stages were generally met by the selected legume varieties. The Na needed by cows both in the pregnancy and nursing stages have not been consistently met by the selected legumes.

Forage energy content varied from 52.8 to 62.4% for the selected legume varieties. With the exception of August only cut for 2410 hybrid alfalfa and sainfoin, the energy requirements of lactating and non-lactating cows were mostly met by the selected legume varieties.

Forage Selenium Content

The selenium (Se) requirement of beef cattle is 0.10 mg/kg of diet dry matter. According to the information on the AARD website, approximately 20% of legume and grass-legume forages, and 50% of grass and cereal forages do not contain the required concentration of Se. From the forage demonstration plots in Fairview, the following forages from the August only cut were analyzed for Se content: Tall fescue (0.11 mg/kg), Anik alfalfa (0.11 mg/kg Se), Carlton smooth bromegrass (0.26 mg/kg Se), Fleet meadow bromegrass (0.11 mg/kg Se), Algonquin alfalfa (0.08 mg/kg Se) and timothy (0.11 mg/kg Se). This indicates that the selected forages have mostly met the suggested Se value for beef cattle.

General Notes

Legume varieties were more affected by winter kill than grass varieties in Fairview. With the exception of AC Caribou, Anik and Peace alfalfa varieties, all other alfalfa varieties tested appeared to be significantly affected by winter kill. Also, delaying cutting in the year until early August seemed to have affected most alfalfa plant stands over time. Forage plant stands particularly for alfalfa decreased slowly over the years with early August cut (August cut only). Juliet red clover has not been doing well at the site. Hay from grasses cut in early August (for August only cut) would not generally be as palatable as those cut in early June (for June only) or early June + early August cuts (for 2-cut system) because of reduced forage quality and advanced growth.

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