Harvesting Green Feed - Frequently Asked Questions

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 When is the best time to cut green feed?
The proper stage to cut green feed will depend on the type of cereal crop grown.

CropHarvest Stage
BarleyMilk to soft dough
OatsEarly to late milk
WheatMilk to soft dough
Fall RyeBoot to heading
TriticaleHeading to late milk

What happens to green feed quality if you cut it later?
Later cutting will increase the plant fibre content, which reduces digestibility and the energy, and protein level declines as the cereal crop goes from the boot to the hard dough stage.

Do all cereal crops decline in quality at the same rate?
No, for example the quality of barley declines more slowly compared to oats, triticale and rye. Generally, a balance between yield and quality can be reached if the green feed is harvested in the soft dough stage.

At what moisture level can green feed be baled?
For safe storage of green feed bales, the moisture level should be 15%. A note of caution: if you are testing the swath with a hand held hay probe, the stems of the crop may test dry but the heads may be too wet to bale. Swaths that test 15% moisture can easily test over 25% moisture a day after baling if the kernels in the heads haven’t had a chance to cure. The most accurate way of testing the moisture content is to do a microwave test.

For further information:
To compare the quality of different green feed crops:
Ten Year Average Analysis of Alberta Feeds
Using Fall Rye for Pasture, Hay and Silage

Prepared by Juanita Kopp, Ag-Info Centre, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

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This document is maintained by Brenda McLellan.
This information published to the web on June 16, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on November 10, 2016.