Grazing Annual Forages - Frequently Asked Questions

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 What are some of the more popular annuals and winter annuals used for grazing?
The winter annuals used for grazing are fall rye, winter wheat & winter triticale. The more common annuals are oats and barley. On occasion, heels of seed left over from seeding, are mixed and seeded for grazing. In this case almost anything can make it into the mix for grazing, wheat, peas, canola, etc.

What are some of the pros and cons of some of the different annuals used for grazing?
Of the winter cereals fall rye has the advantage of having a higher winter survival rate. Fall rye will provide early spring grazing the second year more often than the other less winter hardy winter cereal. Spring cereals, in the year of seeding, will actually produce more top growth, more quickly, than the winter cereals.

What are the fertilizer requirements?
Increasing the fertilizer rates by 25% is a pretty safe rule of thumb to follow. The rational for increased fertilizer requirements can be explained a couple of ways. First, the growing season is extended. It is extended from a crop ripening in Aug, to a crop that continues to grow well into the fall. Another consideration is the potential for improved water use efficiency. More of the moisture received during the growing season can be used for growth, assuming the plants are in a green, vegetative state throughout the growing season. This increased potential for growth, from the same amount of rainfall, will require additional nutrients for additional growth.

Are there any other crop considerations for grazing annual forages?
The use of legumes can be used to offset some of the nitrogen fertilizer requirements. Sweet clover is legume worthy of consideration. There are a couple of things to be aware of when using sweet clover as the legume of choice. Sweet clover is a bi-annual, producing less vegetation the first year. Then second year will require fairly heavy grazing or early cutting for feed, to prevent it from getting too coarse. Sweet clover also creates some weed control challenges for the two years this legume is in the stand.

Are there any health concerns in grazing annuals?
Annuals at their most vegetative stage will be high in protein and low in fiber. Feeds high in protein and low in fiber can cause a condition in cattle called high blood urea. This condition can cause an acidic condition in the reproductive tract resulting in reduced conception rates. Putting out feeds lower in protein content and higher in fiber content can reduce the risk of this condition. This is another reason for putting annuals like oats or barley in with a winter annual like fall rye for grazing. Allowing the annual cereals to elongate will provide vegetation with more fiber and lower protein.

Prepared by Ag-Info Centre, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry 310-3276
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Karin Lindquist.
This document is maintained by Brenda McLellan.
This information published to the web on May 8, 2006.
Last Reviewed/Revised on September 17, 2018.