Testing of Perennial Forages: Forage Yields of 11 Grasses, 15 Legumes and 9 Mixtures

Funder: Alberta Beef Producers

Collaborators: Chinook Applied Research Association (CARA) & SARDA Ag Research

Project Site: High Prairie

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2017 Annual Report

Perennial forages consisting of different grasses, legumes and grass/legume mixtures were seeded in 2016 in a province-wide project. Forages consisted of varieties which have been developed in recent years along with some older varieties. The project is intended to address the following ABP priority areas: (1) improved grazing, management and forage mixture strategies that optimize hay yields and beef production from native range and tame pastures, (2) quantification of varietal and species differences in the ability of grasses, legumes and annual forages to maintain nutritional quality throughout the grazing season and in extended stockpiled or swath grazing systems and (3) evaluation of yield, nutrient profile and animal performance of new forage varieties in geographical regions beyond the development region. This project will provide farmers and ranchers in Alberta with performance information on a number of perennial forages.

Measurements Taken in 2017

Project Site: High Prairie

The following field data collection was done:

a) plant height (cm) (June 30) & stage of maturity (June 30),

b) botanical composition for grass/legume mixes only (June 30) and

c) forage dry matter yield (determined by hand using quadrants) and forage quality

Results and Interpretation

Grasses Plant Height (Table 2): The plant height for grasses varied from 100.8 cm for Kirk crested wheatgrass to 149.8 cm for Fleet meadow brome. Fleet meadow brome, Success hybrid brome, Greenleaf pubescent wheatgrass, Killarney orchardgrass, Knowles hybrid brome and Admiral hybrid brome grew taller than other grasses.

Forage DM yield (Table 2): Greenleaf pubescent wheatgrass had the highest forage DM value (7597 lbs/ acre), followed closely by Killarney orchardgrass (7103 lbs/acre). Fojtan festulolium and Courtney tall fescue seemed to have lower forage DM yields than other grasses.

Forage Quality (Table 3): The forage CP was highest for Success hybrid brome (13.1%) and lowest for Greenleaf pubescent wheatgrass (8.71%). Only 4 of the 11 grasses had 11% CP or more. Others had <11% CP. Except for Greenleaf pubescent wheatgrass, which had 58% forage TDN, the forage TDN was mostly >60%. AC Admiral hybrid brome, Success hybrid brome and Knowles hybrid brome had higher forage TDN than other grasses. The forage NEM varied from 1.33-1.44 Mcal/kg for the grasses tested.


Plant Height (Table 4): Nova sainfoin and 44-44 alfalfa appeared to have higher plant height values than other legumes. Veldt cicer milkvetch did not grow as tall as other legumes.

Forage DM yield (Table 4): PV Ultima produced higher forage DM yield values than other legumes.

Forage Quality (Table 5): The forage CP was highest for Assalt ST Alfalfa (19.6% CP), followed by Halo (17.2%) and then PV Ultima and Rangelander (with 16.6% CP each). Nine of the 15 legumes had 15% CP or more, while others had <15% CP. The 2 sainfoins and the 2 cicer milkvetches had lower forage CP than other legumes.

The forage TDN was higher for Assalt ST alfalfa, Halo alfalfa, PV Ultima alfalfa, Oxley 2 cicer milkvetch, Veldt cicer milkvetch and Rangelander with about 60% or more TDN. Other forage legumes had <60% TDN. The forage NEM varied from 1.26-1.49 Mcal/kg for the legumes tested.

Field Observations - Fojtan festulolium was not as good as other grasses in terms of establishment/stands and soil coverage in 2017. Forage DM was not determined from some Fojtan Festulolium plots due to lack of uniform stands.

Forage Mixtures

Plant Height (Table 6): The grasses in the mixtures all had similar plant height, varying from 141.5 to 148.3 cm. The legumes in the mixtures also had similar plant heights, varying from 88.3 to 95.0 cm. Generally, the grasses in the mixtures grew taller than the companion legumes.

Botanical Composition (Table 6): The grass component of the mixtures was mostly higher than the legume component. The percent composition of grasses was highest for Success hybrid brome (82.0%) in the Success HB/AC Mountainview mixture. Seven of the 9 mixtures had >50% grasses in the mixtures. Only 2 mixtures had more legumes than grasses in the mixtures. Spredor 5 was higher than AC Knowles MB in the AC Knowles MB/Spreador 5 as well as in Success HB/Spreador 5.

Forage Dry Matter (DM) (Table 6): Fleet MB/Yellowhead had the highest forage DM (7490 lb/acre) and this was followed by AC Knowles MB/Spreador 5 with 6759 lb/acre. The mixtures that included AC Mountainview sainfoin mostly seemed to have lower total forage DM yield than other mixtures.

Forage Quality (Table 7): The forage CP was highest for Fleet meadow brome/Spredor 5 mixture with about 20% CP. Six of the 9 mixtures had 17% CP or more. AC Knowles MB/Spreador 5, Fleet MB/AC Mountainview and Success HB/AC Mountainview had <14.0% CP.

The forage TDN was 60% or more for 6 of the 9 mixtures. AC Knowles MB/Spreador 5, Fleet MB/AC Mountainview and Success HB/AC Mountainview had <56% TDN. The forage NEM varied from 1.45-1.53 Mcal/kg for the mixtures tested.

Future Plan

Further evaluation (including forage yield, botanical composition of the mixtures, and field notes on winter kill) will continue in 2018. The project will conclude in 2018, so comprehensive information on the performance of the forages and forage mixtures will be available to producers in early 2019.

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