Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye
Collaborating Producer: Wally and Christine Lentz, Whitelaw (Clear Hills County)
From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2013 Annual Report
Studies at Lacombe Research Centre have shown that swath grazing triticale can save a producer time, money and machinery costs. Research indicates that swath grazing can reduce total daily feeding cost per cow by 41 to 48%. This is based on a 78% reduction in yardage costs and a 25% reduction in feed costs. Daily feed costs range from $0.61 to $1.80 per cow, largely due to variability in the number of grazing days per acre. Also, studies at Lacombe that compared the carrying capacities of triticale and barley for swath grazing showed that triticale achieved almost double the carrying capacity of barley. The use of triticale for swath grazing is not commonly done in the Peace. The present trial tested 3 reduced-awn triticale varieties and Mustang oat for forage yield and quality in a swath grazing system.
The trial took place in Whitelaw (RGE RD 13) on a 20 acres of land. 4 crop varieties (3 reduced-awn spring triticale varieties (Bunker, Taza & Tyndal)) and a Mustang oat variety were seeded. Each crop variety occupied 5 acres of land. Seeding was done on June 4, 2013, with a no-till air drill at a rate of 2 bushels/acre for each triticale and about 2.5 bushels per acre for Mustang oat variety. Fertility at seeding was 145 lb/acre fertilizer blend consisting of N, P, K & S.
In mid-July, a section (a bit more than 2/3) of the field consisting of all seeded crops was sprayed with Best Foliar Fertilizer (Best FF) for crop (15% N – 25% P – 8% K) and the remainder of the field was left unsprayed and this was used as check (test) strip. For more information, please visit: http://www.bestenvirotech.com/best-farming-system
Harvest for forage DM yield determination was done on September 4. Oat was harvested at the late milk/early dough stage, while triticale was harvested at the mid-dough stage. Swathing of the whole field was done on September 7. Plant height was also measured on September 4. Forage samples were analyzed for quality. The field was grazed with 45 cow-calf pairs.
Results and Discussion
Plant Height & Moisture Content
Plant height did not vary much for the variety x spraying treatments interactions. Tyndal, Bunker and Taza triticale varieties, when sprayed with Best FF only increased plant height respectively by 5.4, 1.1 and 2.0 cm over unsprayed treatment (check) (see Figure 1). Generally, the sprayed crops appeared to have a 2.0 cm plant height advantage over check. For all sprayed crop varieties (crop variety x treatment interaction), moisture content at harvest was higher by 1.5 to 4.7% over check (see Figure 2). Overall, moisture content at harvest was significantly higher for sprayed treatment than unsprayed check strip. When sprayed with Best FF, all crop varieties have improved forage DM yield compared to check. DM yields from sprayed strips varied from 632 lb/acre to Tyndal to 1055 lb/acre for Mustang oat over check strips (see Figure 3). Overall, forage DM yield was higher with Best FF by 812 lb/acre than check.
Forage Quality (Table 1)
Forage protein was generally favored by Best FF. Increases in protein content were 1.17 to 4.66% for crops sprayed with Best FF over check. Overall, Best FF improved protein by 2.19% over check. Averaged across both spraying treatments, all crop varieties had sufficient amount of protein needed by a dry gestating cow, which is 7 per cent in mid pregnancy and 9 per cent in late pregnancy stage. Similarly, across all crop varieties, protein contents in both spraying treatments were adequate for a dry gestating cow.
Ca and Mg contents of each crop variety were greatly improved by Best FF. But forage P content was generally unaffected by Best FF. Except for Tyndal triticale, K content appeared to be favoured by Best FF.
The energy content determined by total digestible nutrients (% TDN) did not show any consistent values with the spraying treatments (Best FF vs Check). Energy content was generally >60%, indicating that the energy requirements of a dry gestating cow (55-60% TDN) were met by both crop varieties and spraying treatments.
All triticale varieties had higher DM yields than Mustang oat. Of the 3 triticale tested here, Bunker variety appeared to have a greater potential for forage production for the purpose of swath grazing for extending the grazing season of beef cows. The use of Best FF would go a long way in improving forage DM yield and some quality parameters of both triticale and oat varieties.