Seed Annual and Winter Annual Crops Now for Feed Next Winter

  From the June 25, 2018 Issue of Agri-News
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 Environmental stress from last summer and fall, higher than normal levels of winter kill, and a lack of moisture this spring have reduced the yield potential in many perennial forage stands. Localized feed shortages could be possible in many areas of the province. Barry Yaremcio, beef and forage specialist at the Alberta Ag-Info Centre looks at feed options for livestock producers to consider.

“Freighting in hay is one way to secure supplies, but this becomes very expensive if it is trucked any distance. Using salvage crops is a possibility, but supply is unreliable. Another option is to grow annual crops for greenfeed, silage, or swath grazing,” says Yaremcio.

Planting such a crop can help increase forage availability. Says Yaremcio, “Seeding at a slightly higher rate than what is used for producing a cereal crop can increase tonnage per acre. Cutting at the correct stage of development should provide a good quality forage. Oats should be cut at the late milk to early dough stage and barley at the early to mid-dough stage to use for greenfeed and swath grazing. Silage crops are cut later at the mid to firm dough stage.”

Adding a winter annual to an annual crop that will be used this way is also beneficial. “Winter annuals have a large growth phase late in the growing season and provides high quality forage for grazing,” explains Yaremcio. “Cows can graze the growth after the plants have gone dormant. Even when the area is used for swath grazing, the winter annual will continue to grow between the swaths, increasing the total amount of forage available for the cows to graze. Cows will graze through the snow to eat the green material, and this option helps to reduce the total amount of stored forage needed for the winter.”

“To increase total forage yield per acre, mix in one bushel per acre of a winter annual - fall rye, winter triticale, or winter wheat - in with the normal seeding rate for the annual crop such as oats, barley, or spring triticale. Seeding the mixture early in the season will allow the winter annuals to germinate and develop. The low growth habit of the winter annuals will not produce much harvestable material when the annual crop is cut for silage, greenfeed, or swath grazing,” adds Yaremcio.

Yaremcio says that the second advantage of adding winter annuals is their biennial growth cycle. “If the winter annual crop survives the winter, it will start growing very early the following spring. It is possible to turn animals out onto the winter annual crop much earlier than what can be done for perennial forages. It can reduce the amount of stored feed required to get through the winter, and it also reduces the stress on perennial pastures by keeping the animals off them early in the year.”

For more information, contact the Alberta Ag-Info Centre at 310-FARM (3276).

Alberta Ag-Info Centre
310-FARM (3276)

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Barry Yaremcio.
This document is maintained by Christine Chomiak.
This information published to the web on June 18, 2018.