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Don’t Delay, Plan Your Winter Feed Today

By Maddy Lazurko AAg, Livestock and Feed Extension Specialist, Swift Current

March 2021

Swathed greenfeed
Swathed and standing greenfeed.

There's no better time than now to start planning your next feeding program. Greenfeed is just one of many forages that can be used successfully to over-winter cattle. Typically, greenfeed is comparable in energy and protein to hay and, therefore, complements preserved perennial forages to meet the cow's requirements throughout the winter feeding period. The main crops used for greenfeed are barley, oats and triticale. They can be seeded later in the spring (late-May to mid-June), allowing plenty of time to seed other annual crops. When determining whether to use greenfeed for your livestock, consider crop and variety selection, harvest timing, storage and nutrient values.

Sourcing seed early for planting greenfeed can reduce costs, time and stress. It's important to choose a variety that will be successful in your area to maximize yield and quality potential. Harvest timing is also important to secure maximum yield while maintaining quality. Traditionally for greenfeed, it is recommended that barley and triticale should be cut at the soft dough stage and oats should be cut at the late milk stage. However, new research from the University of Saskatchewan has shown that barley greenfeed can be cut at the hard dough stage to achieve a higher yield without negatively impacting animal performance. Prolonging cutting is a good way to increase feed inventory without incurring any additional costs. Be sure to cut before the seed matures or you run the risk of producing a high-fibre forage with lower digestibility.

The nutritional values of greenfeed vary depending on crop type, variety, stage of harvest and weather, among other factors. Feed testing your existing perennial forages is the only way to determine what nutrients your forages lack. Selecting a greenfeed that complements the protein and energy content of those forages is an ideal way to correct these deficiencies. On average, on a dry matter basis, barley greenfeed contains 12 per cent protein and 58 per cent total digestible nutrients (TDN); oat greenfeed contains 10 per cent protein and 58 per cent TDN; and triticale greenfeed contains 11 per cent protein and 66 per cent TDN. Another option to boost protein is a mixed greenfeed achieved by seeding cereals and legumes together. Out of oats, barley and triticale, triticale appears to perform best in combination with peas. It is less competitive, allowing the peas to grow thicker. It is important to test all forages annually to create a complete nutrition plan that includes an appropriate mineral package and a safe water source.

The ideal winter feeding plan for one operation may not be the same as the next. Use a suite of forages that work on your operation and in your area. Greenfeed is just one option to round out your winter feeding plan. Start thinking about next year's winter feeding program now, source seed early to reduce stress and make the most out of your acres this growing season. For more information about using greenfeed in your winter feeding plan, contact your nearest Regional Office to speak with your local livestock and feed extension specialist, or call the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

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