Winter cereals are adapted to all soil zones in Saskatchewan. When late summer grazing capacity is needed, winter cereals such as fall rye, winter wheat and winter triticale are more suitable than spring cereals or other annual forage crops.
When seeded in the spring, winter cereals produce little seed and stay leafy compared to barley or oats. Only five to 10 per cent of winter cereal plants typically head in the year of seeding.
Winter wheat and fall rye seeded in the spring will be ready for grazing by the second week of July. These cereals can also provide early-season pasture the following spring.
While seed costs for these crops may be higher, they provide better-quality forage than spring cereals or other annuals in the late summer and fall. The early maturity of winter cereals during the growing season also allows them to be cut for hay or silage earlier than spring cereals.
Fall rye is the most winter-hardy winter cereal. Typically fall rye will produce well for one or two years. However, some producers have reported grazing fall rye more than two years.
Fall rye can be pastured prior to stem elongation in the spring and still produce a grain crop if moisture conditions are adequate. Under good moisture conditions, fall rye produces lower forage yields than oats or barley, but will produce more forage in drought-prone areas.
Although spring-seeded fall rye, winter triticale and winter wheat tend to yield similarly for pasture, winter triticale or winter wheat are more palatable than fall rye.
Fall rye makes acceptable silage if cut in the mid-milk to early dough stage. If cut later, the hay is usually of lower quality, is harder to handle, and is more difficult to cure.
Winter wheat and winter triticale can also be used for silage. Silage quality of winter triticale or wheat will be slightly higher than fall rye.