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Testing Alternative Forage-type Annual Cereals & Grasses for Forage Production in High Prairie

Project Site: Bill Fevang's Farm - High Prairie

Research Program Manager: Dr. Akim Omokanye

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2018 Annual Report


In the Peace Country, cool season annual forage-type cereal crops such as barley, oats, and triticale are well suited to the growing conditions and can provide emergency or supplementary forage for beef cattle production. These crops establish quickly after seeding and can provide pasture later in the growing season when perennial forage production is decreasing and demand is at its highest. Traditionally, oats and barley have been the most widely used annual cereal crops for forages and feed grains. The latest trend in the Peace has been to grow multispecies cover crop mixes (usually known as cocktails) for use in livestock production and for soil improvement. The objective of this study was to assess the performance of 3 warm season annual forage-type cereal crops, Festulolium (a hybrid forage grass developed by crossing Meadow or Tall Fescue with Perennial or Italian Ryegrass), and an Italian ryegrass for forage production in the Peace to determine potential alternative crops to traditional cool season oats.

Methods

The study site was at Bill Fevang’s farm in High Prairie. The site had canola the year before and it was sprayed with a pre-seed burnoff before seeding the different cereal crops in 2018. Soil tests from 0-6” showed an organic matter of 10.3%, a pH of 5.9, and an electrical conductivity of 1.0 dS/m. The soil had 27 lbs N/acre, 23 lbs P/ac, 496 lbs K/ac and 19 lbs S/ac. The different annual cereal and grass crops seeded are listed below:

1. Haymaker oats (check) seeded at 116 lbs/acre (28 seeds per square ft.)

2. Corn (CanaMaize) seeded at 32,000 kernels/acre

3. Japanese Millet seeded at 25 lbs/acre

4. Proso millet seeded at 25 lbs/acre

5. Melquatro Italian ryegrass seeded at 12 lbs/acre

6. Htkor Festulolium seeded at 20 lbs/acre

· Seeding date: June 7 with a plot drill.

· Fertilizer application consisted of 57 lbs N + 47 lbs P + 13 lbs S. No K was applied as the soil test showed sufficient K for the cereal crops.

· We applied Prestige XCA + Prestige XCB as an in-crop to control weeds.

· Harvest date for forage yield and quality was August 20. For each plot, the above ground biomass was harvested from the 4 inner rows, in a strip 2 m long, and weighed fresh. Approximately two 0.7 kg sub samples per crop of freshly harvested material was shipped to A&L Canada Laboratories Inc., London, Ontario for determination of forage nutritive value (% DM basis).

Results

Forage DM yield

The check (CDC Haymaker oats) had the highest forage DM yield. CDC Haymaker oats had 1657-6902 lbs DM yield/acre more than the alternative crops. For the alternative cereal/grass crops tested, CanaMazie corn had the highest forage DM yield, followed by Japanese millet, Proso millet, Melquatro Italian ryegrass and Festulolium in that order (Table 1).

Forage Quality (Table 1)

The forage crude protein (CP) was much higher for both Htkor Festulolium and Melquatro Italian ryegrass than the other alternative crops tested, as well as CDC Haymaker oats (check). Except for CDC Haymaker oats (which only had adequate CP for a dry gestating beef cow 7-9% CP), all alternative crops tested had adequate CP for mature beef cattle (11% CP). With the higher CP values from Htkor Festulolium and Melquatro Italian ryegrass, both Htkor Festulolium and Melquatro Italian ryegrass could be used as protein supplement when feeding forages that are low in CP content to beef cattle.

The forage energy content as determined by total digestible nutrients (TDN) was generally higher for the alternative crops than CDC Haymaker oats (check). Both Melquatro Italian ryegrass and Htkor Festulolium had much higher TDN than other alternative crops, as well as CDC Haymaker oats. The forage TDN varied from 74.1% for Htkor Festulolium to 60.2% for CDC Haymaker oats. Only Melquatro Italian ryegrass and Htkor Festulolium had adequate TDN for mature beef cattle. Others were only able to meet the TDN needed by a dry gestating beef cow.

In addition to both Melquatro Italian ryegrass and Htkor Festulolium recording higher forage CP and TDN than other alternatives and CDC Haymaker oats, the forage acid detergent fibre (ADF), neutral detergent fibre (NDF), and Na from both Melquatro Italian ryegrass and Htkor Festulolium were better in terms of forage quality indicators.

Overall, only Melquatro Italian ryegrass and Htkor Festulolium were able to meet the mineral requirements (for the minerals measured here) of a dry gestating beef cow. Generally, when feeding any of the crops tested here, including CDC Haymaker oats, to mature beef cattle, mineral supplementation would be needed as none of the crops have been able to completely meet the requirements.


Conclusion

Although CDC Haymaker oats (more traditional cereal crop for forage) had greater forage DM yield than alternative crops, Japanese millet, corn (CanaMaize), and proso millet all seemed to have some great potential for forage production in the area. The forage quality of the alternative crops all compared well with CDC Hayamker oats, and in most cases, the alternatives seemed to have better forage quality than CDC Haymaker oats. Both Melquatro Italian ryegrass and Htkor Festulolium did not produce as much forage DM as CDC Haymaker oats and other alternative crops, but they both showed some potential value as protein and energy supplements when feeding forages that have lower CP and TDN contents for beef cattle.

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