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

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Location: High Prairie Airport

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

Following the establishment of 32 forage species and varieties (15 grasses + 17 legumes) in June of 2010, we have continued to maintain and collect necessary data on the performance of these forages. We have also continued to show case the plots to producers in High Prairie and area. The PCBFA Annual Reports for 2010 and 2011 have information regarding seeding & management, and reports on dry matter yield and quality, and selenium contents for some forage varieties.

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 — On May 03, 2012, a hand held fertilizer spreader was used to broadcast urea (46-0-0) in two equal passes of 33.75 lbs actual N/acre. The second pass was made perpendicular to the first in order to evenly apply the product. In total 67.5 lbs/acre was broadcast. The fertilizer was applied to the entire plot of grasses. No fertilizer application was made on the legume plots.

Weed Control—The grass species and variety plots were sprayed once with Curtail M at the rate of 0.7L/acre @ 40L water volume and the legumes also sprayed once with Basagran Forte at the rate of 0.91L/ac at 45L water volume. Hand weeding was occasionally done.

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 the 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— Coming into spring, the biggest observation following the 3 cutting treatments in 2011 was the distinctive difference in new plant growth in relation to cutting time. The June only cut had considerable more growth than the 2 cuts (June & August) and August only. The August only cut plots also showed more growth than the 2 cuts (June & August). The more the plants were allowed to re-establish in the fall, the better they came back in the spring.

Legumes— At this site also, there was a distinctive difference between the cutting times. The first cut (June only) had significantly more growth, followed again by the August only cut and then the 2 cuts (June & August). Winter kill here in the legume plots was an issue. Both varieties of clover were almost completely winter killed. What was growing looked as if they were coming from seeds that have dropped from mature plants last fall. All the alfalfa plots however, had sustained little to no damage to winter kill.


Forage DM Yield

Grasses (Figure 1) - For June only cut, only 4 (AC Knowles hybrid bromegrass, Fleet meadow bromegrass, Climax timothy and Carlton smooth bromegrass) of the 15 grasses had >5000 lb DM/acre. Other grasses had <5000 lb DM/acre. Carlton smooth bromegrass had the highest DM with 6097 lb DM/acre while Barolex tall fescue recorded the lowest DM with 1518 lb DM/acre.

When the grasses were cut twice (June & August), total DM was only >5000 lb DM/acre for 5 grasses (AC Knowles hybrid bromegrass, Fleet meadow bromegrass, Climax timothy and Carlton smooth bromegrass and AC Rocket smooth bromegrass). Other grasses did not yield as much when cut twice in the year. Carlton smooth bromegrass also had the highest total DM from 2 cuts (June & August) per year.

When cutting was carried out in August (August only), 6 (Palaton reed canary grass, AC Knowles hybrid bromegrass, Carlton smooth bromegrass, AC Rocket smooth bromegrass, Derby timothy) of the 15 grasses had >6000 lb DM/acre. Palaton reed canary grass had the highest yield with 9281 lb DM/acre.

Overall, Barolex tall fescue, Pradel tall fescue and AC Nordic orchard grass had slower spring growth and performed poorly throughout the year.

Legumes (Figure 2) - For June only cut, with the exception of the two cicer milkvetch varieties (Windsor and Oxley II), Juliet red clover, Aurora alsike clover and Algonquin alfalfa, all the other legumes produced >4000 lb DM/acre. Matrix alfalfa had the highest DM with 6090 lb DM/acre for June only cut.

When 2 cuts were carried out, total DM was highest for Spredor 4 alfalfa (6020 lb DM/acre), followed by Equinox alfalfa with 5842 lb DM/acre and then Anik alfalfa with 5269 lb DM/acre. Other legumes had <5000 lb total DM/acre when 2 cuts were made (June & August). Generally, DM was higher (>50%) at the second cut (August) than at the first cut (June) for the legumes. Again, the 2 cicer milkvetch varieties (Windsor & Oxley II), Juliet red clover and Aurora alsike clover had poor DM with the June & August cuts.

When cutting was delayed till August (August only), only 7 of the 17 legumes had DM >4000 lb DM/acre. The highest DM was from Multi 5301 alfalfa with 5933 lb DM/acre, followed by Matrix alfalfa (4729 lb DM/acre) and Equinox alfalfa (4673 lb DM/acre) in that order. AC Blue -J alfalfa along with the 2 cicer milkvetch varieties (Windsor & Oxley II), Juliet red clover and Aurora alsike clover all had poor DM when cutting was delayed in the year till August (August only cut).

Forage Nutritive Value

All the top 6 grasses selected for feed tests had >11% protein when cut in June (June only). When 2 cuts were carried out in both June & August (June & August cuts), protein contents were generally lower for Climax timothy (1 st & 2nd cuts ), Carlton smooth bromegrass (2 nd cut) and Fleet meadow bromegrass (2nd cut). The June cut mostly had higher mean protein than August cut.

When cutting was delayed until August (August only), only Palaton reed canary grass had >10% protein. Other grasses had less than 9.2% protein.

Looking at the mean values, protein was highest for June only harvest (12.3% CP) and lowest for August only cut (8.5% CP). Overall, throughout the season, Palaton reed canary grass was mostly higher than other grasses in protein content.

With the exception of some grasses cut in August (August only), the selected top 6 grasses (for feed value tests) were mostly sufficient for the protein requirements of pregnant and lactating cows.

Generally, energy (TDN) contents were similar for all grasses regardless of cutting times. Surprisingly, energy contents did not vary much between cutting early in June (June only) or delaying cutting until August (August only). The energy contents from the grasses and cutting times were generally lower than what is required during the early stages of lactation.

Regardless of when cutting was carried out, all legumes analyzed for nutritive value had high protein content (12.1-23.4% CP). Multi alfalfa mostly had higher protein than other legumes at any particular cut. The protein contents from the legumes as well as from the cutting times far exceeded the 7 to 11% protein requirements of pregnant and lactating cows.

Energy (TDN) contents were mostly slightly lower the legumes when cut in August (August only) than at other cutting times. With the exception of AC Caribou alfalfa, which had 54.2% TDN, other legumes generally had values varying from 58.4 to 63.0% TDN. Like the grasses, the energy contents from the legumes and cutting times were generally lower than what is required during the early stages of lactation.

Forage Ca and P Contents (Table 2)

The Ca content varied from 0.16% for Carlton smooth bromegrass for June only cut to 0.52% Fleet meadow bromegrass for 2nd cut in August. Generally for all grasses, 2nd cut in August appeared to have more Ca content than other cutting times. Fleet smooth bromegrass had significantly higher Ca content than other grasses at every cut. With the exception of Carlton smooth bromegrass when cut in June (June only) and Grindstad timothy grass with the 1st cut (June), these selected top 6 grasses regardless of when they were cut had sufficient amounts of Ca required by dry gestating cows. Fleet meadow brome was mostly enough for growing and finishing cattle that require 31% Ca. None of the grasses or times of cut had adequate amount needed by lactating cows. All the legumes regardless of cutting times had >0.80% Ca contents, which far exceeded the Ca requirements for all classes of beef cattle.

Delaying cutting until August (August only), appeared to reduce forage Ca content compared to other cuts. Most of the forage Ca contents of grasses for June only and June & August cuts were good enough for dry gestating cows. Commercial mineral or a good legume hay with higher Ca content will be needed to supplement grasses which had cutting delayed till August (August only). Except for AC Caribou and 53V52 alfalfa varieties for August only cut, the legumes had adequate amounts of 0.16 %P that is required by dry gestating cows. Regardless of when cutting was made, most legumes had sufficient amounts of P required by growing and finishing cattle (0.21% P) and lactating cows (0.26% P).

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 test 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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