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Perennial Forage Demonstration in Rycroft

Updated: May 25, 2023

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

Trial Location: on the Property of Weaver Bros. Auctions Ltd. MD of Spirit River

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2014 Annual Report

The purpose of PCBFA perennial forage demonstration plots is to show case a variety of grass and legume species and varieties with potential for beef cattle feed in parts of the Peace region. The various PCBFA demonstration plots are being used as an effective tool for assessing new forage varieties for adaptation to our environment, tolerance to drought, winter hardiness, recovery after cutting and potential multiple cuts, over a few-year period. With these demonstration plots, farmers will be able to appraise for themselves both traditionally grown and new forage species that have been developed and released in recent years.


The perennial forage demonstration site is on the property of Weaver Bros. Auctions Ltd, along highway 49 between Rycroft and Spirit River (19-78-5W6 SW). The plots were seeded in 2012 with a plot drill. A total of 42 forage species and varieties (22 grasses in one block and 20 legumes in another block) was seeded. All forages were seeded at the recommended rate (see AARD website$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex9682/$file/120_22-3.pdf?OpenElement).

The grasses seeded consisted of wheatgrass, meadow bromegrass, smooth bromegrass, fescue, orchard grass, timothy and reed canary grass. For the legumes, alfalfa, sainfoin, cicer milkvetch, birdsfoot trefoil and clover varieties were seeded. Prior to seeding in 2012, the site was sprayed with roundup to control the existing vegetation and later rotor tilled.

In the second year of seeding (2013), a hand held fertilizer spreader was used to broadcast urea (46-0-0) in two equal passes of 40.0 lbs actual N/acre. The second pass was made perpendicular to the first in order to evenly apply the product. In total 65.5 lbs/acre was broadcast. The fertilizer was applied to the entire plot of grasses. No fertilizer application was made on the legume plots. In 2014, no additional fertilizer was applied as the soil tests showed sufficient nutrients for the forage for the year.

The plots were sprayed in the summer of 2013 and 2014. 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.

No harvesting was done in 2013. But on July 15, 2014, the forages were harvested for the purpose of deter-mining individual forage yield. Composite dry forage samples were sent to Central Testing Laboratories Ltd, Winnipeg, Manitoba for forage quality analysis. Six forages (3 grasses and 3 legumes) were analyzed for for-age selenium content.


Forage Dry (DM) Yield

For the legumes, the forage DM yield was highest for Spredor alfalfa (3557 lbs DM/acre) and lowest for both 420MF alfalfa and Oxley II cicer milkvetch (1980 lbs DM/acre). Of the 17 legumes sampled for forage DM yield, only 7 had >1.5 ton DM/acre. Other legumes had <1.5 ton DM/acre. Spredor 4 alfalfa is a dry land alfal-fa and this could be why it slightly had more DM than other legumes in 2014, which was a dry year. Spredor 4 alfalfa is grown for hay and pasture. Other attributes of Spredor 4 include good grazing tolerance and excel-lent winter hardiness.

For the grasses, the forage DM was highest for Regar meadow bromegrass (3574 lbs DM/acre) and lowest for AC Knowles hybrid bromegrass (1295 lbs DM/acre). Regar meadow bromegrass had 613-2282 lbs DM/acre more DM than other grasses sampled.

The mean DM for 17 legumes sampled was 2801 lbs DM/acre. For the grasses, the mean DM was 2232 lbs DM/acre. Generally, like in most parts of the Peace, 2014 was a dry year in the Rycroft area. The dry weather affected the DM yield of both grasses and legumes.

Forage Quality

The forage protein (crude protein, CP) content was highest for 420MF alfalfa (16.7% CP) and lowest for sainfoin (9.59% CP). Only 2 of the 17 legumes had less than 11% CP, while other legumes had greater than 11% CP. All legumes had adequate protein (7-9% CP) that is needed by a dry gestating cow, 7% CP in mid pregnancy and 9% in late pregnancy. Except for Yellowhead alfalfa and Sainfoin (common), all legumes had adequate protein and in most cases far exceeded the 11% CP that is required by a lactating cow. The dry weather in 2014 in the area and stage of growth or time of harvest may have caused the low CP in both Yellow-head alfalfa and Sainfoin (common).

The forage CP of grasses was highest for Potamac orchard grass (15.4% CP). Except for Potamac orchard grass, all grasses had <10% CP. Only Potamac orchard grass exceeded the protein requirements of a mature beef cow (7-11% CP). Both Grindstad timothy and AC Nordic orchard grass only had sufficient protein for a dry gestating cow (7-9% CP). Other grasses either only had sufficient CP for a cow in the mid pregnancy (7% CP) or fell short of the 7% CP needed by this category of cow. The low CP obtained for 5 of the 16 grasses, which had less than 7% protein could be attributed to the effect of dry weather or their stage of growth at which we harvested them on July 15. These 5 grasses appeared to have greater maturity than other grasses.

The forage energy (total digestible nutrients, TDN) of legumes varied from 50.3% TDN for Multi5301 alfalfa to 61.5% TDN for Windsor cicer milkvetch. Only Windsor cicer milkvetch had sufficient energy for a cow in mid and late pregnancy (55-60 % TDN). Eight of the remaining 16 legumes only had sufficient energy for a cow in mid pregnancy. Eight legumes fell short of 55% TDN that is required by a cow in mid pregnancy.

For the grasses, Grindstad timothy had the highest energy (66.1% TDN) and this met the energy requirements of a mature beef cow (55-65% TDN). A few grasses had 60-63% TDN, which is sufficient for a dry gestating cow, while some grasses only had sufficient energy for a dry gestating cow in mid pregnancy.

Table 1 shows forage Ca, P, Mg, K, Na, detergent fiber content and other forms of energy as well as the relative feed value (RFV). All legumes had sufficient Ca that is required by a mature beef cow (0.18-0.42% Ca). Six of the legumes (420MF Alfalfa, Hybrid force Alfalfa, Algonquin Alfalfa, Sainfoin (common), Windsor Cicer milkvetch Oxley II Cicer milkvetch) had adequate P for a dry gestating cow, but none of the legumes had up to the 0.26% P needed by a lactating cow. All legumes exceeded the requirements of Mg and K by a mature beef cow. Only 7 of the legumes had sufficient Na for a dry gestating cow, while only 4 legumes could supply the Na needed by a lactating cow.

In terms of both ADF & NDF, Windsor cicer milkvetch appeared to be better off than other legumes because of the lower ADF and NDF values when the legumes were harvested by mid July.

Only 2 of the 16 grasses did not have enough Ca for a dry gestating cow, which requires 0.18% Ca. All grasses fell short of meeting the P requirements of a mature beef cow. Of the 16 grasses, only 5 grasses (Armada meadow bromegrass, Admiral meadow bromegrass, AC Knowles hybrid bromegrass, AC Nordic Orchard grass and Potamac Orchard grass) had sufficient Mg content that is needed by a mature beef cow. Only 2 of the grasses did not meet the Mg requirements of a dry gestating cow (0.12% Mg). All grasses exceeded the K requirements of a mature beef cow. Only Potamac Orchard grass met the Na requirements of a mature beef cow. In terms of both ADF & NDF, Grindstad timothy grass appeared to be better off than other grasses because of the lower ADF and NDF values when the grasses were harvested by mid July.

Forage Selenium content (Table 1)

The selenium (Se) requirement of beef cattle is 0.10 mg/kg of diet dry matter. According to the information on ARD website, approximately 20% of legume and grass-legume forages, and 50% of grass and cereal forages do not contain the required concentration of Se. In our demonstration plots on Highway 49 along Rycroft-Spirit River, the 3 alfalfa varieties (AC Grazeland, Algonquin and Anik), Fleet Meadow bromegrass, Carlton Smooth bromegrass and Promesse timothy tested for Se had 0.09-0.12 mg/kg. This indicates that the selected forages have mostly met the suggested Se value for a mature beef cattle.


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