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Annuals for Greenfeed

By Trevor Lennox, Regional Forage Specialist, Swift Current

The early snowmelt and warm weather this spring has some producers wondering about the possibility of a drier than normal year. Many producers are wondering how much pasture and hay they will have for the upcoming year. One of the fastest ways to recharge the feed supply on many livestock operations is to grow an annual crop for greenfeed.

The open fall and winter resulted in many pastures being grazed harder, resulting in less litter remaining on the surface for moisture conservation. With pastures being pushed extra hard through the winter, they are going to need some extra time to recover. Again, annuals could help take the grazing pressure off pastures that have been pushed too hard and need some additional recovery time.

Greenfeed yields

A series of greenfeed projects at Swift Current on land managed by Wheatland Conservation Association has resulted in greenfeed yields ranging from 2.5 to three tonnes per acre (air-dry basis). In order to improve the yield, potential fertilizer should be applied at the same rate that would be applied for a good grain yield. A soil test can help refine fertilizer application amounts. Recent greenfeed projects at Wheatland Conservation Association had nitrogen applied in the range of 30 to 60 pounds per acre and phosphorus applied in the range of 15 to 30 pounds per acre.

Pea/cereal mixtures

In 2015, an ADOPT project occurred at Swift Current looking at using peas in combination with either oats or barley for greenfeed. The project looked at optimal seeding rates for pea/cereal mixtures in order to maximize yield. It was interesting to note that the top yielding combination occurred when peas were seeded at 100 per cent of full rate, while the oats or barley in the mixture was seeded at 30 per cent of full seeding rate. When pea/cereal mixtures were seeded at the 100/30 per cent seeding rates they yielded greater than any of the monoculture plots of oats, barley or peas. The pea/cereal mixtures were staged for greenfeed harvest based upon maturity of the cereal in the mixture, with pea/oat mixtures cut when oats was at the late milk stage, and pea/barley mixtures cut when barley was at mid-dough stage.

The project in 2015 compared the new semi-leafless forage pea variety ‘CDC Horizon’ to the older full-leaf type 4010 forage pea variety that has been around for many years. When grown in mixture with oats or barley, and cut at the appropriate stage for greenfeed, CDC Horizon yielded greater than 4010.

Some of the challenges when using pea/cereal mixtures is the extra seed cost of the peas due to larger seed size, and potentially longer time required for curing prior to baling. Another challenge that producers face is the limited availability of forage pea seed, which has some producers questioning which variety of peas to use if they cannot find seed of a forage pea type. The next best option for some producers may be to find a high yielding grain-type semi-leafless yellow pea, as the forage varieties have been developed from yellow peas.

From a feed quality perspective there are benefits to having a pea/cereal mixture versus a cereal monoculture, perhaps similar to the benefits of feeding an alfalfa/grass hay mixture versus feeding 100 percent grass hay. From a tonnage perspective, the 100 per cent pea/30 percent cereal mixture produced the highest amounts of harvestable protein and TDN on a per acre basis when compared to monocultures of oats, barley or peas.

For further information contact Trevor at 306-778-8294, or trevor.lennox@gov.sk.ca

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