Cut­ting ce­real green­feed in field with a swather: what you need to know

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - NEWS - By Jenifer Hey­den Saskatchew­an Agri­cul­ture

Ce­real green­feed is a vi­able win­ter feed source for beef pro­duc­ers across the prairies. De­pend­ing on har­vest pa­ram­e­ters, it can be a nu­tri­ent dense feed with ad­e­quate pro­tein and am­ple en­ergy to main­tain the herd, at least through mid-preg­nancy.

How­ever, for ma­ture cows in late ges­ta­tion or lac­ta­tion stages, or for grow­ing re­place­ment heifers, crude pro­tein is of­ten too low in ce­real green­feed and too high in pea green­feed.

Thus, the in­clu­sion of peas into ce­real green­feed has the po­ten­tial to pro­vide an ad­e­quate amount of pro­tein un­der most pro­duc­tion cir­cum­stances.

Typ­i­cally, ce­real green­feed is about eight to 10 per cent pro­tein and pea for­age around 13-18 per cent pro­tein. The­o­ret­i­cally, a pea-ce­real mix should have higher pro­tein than a pure ce­real and lower pro­tein than pure pea for­age. Pre­vi­ous re­search has shown that when peas are in­cluded in the mix­ture at 50 per cent or more of the sown mix­ture (by weight), crude pro­tein in the har­vested for­age is two to four per­cent­age points higher than with pure ce­re­als. In ad­di­tion, neu­tral de­ter­gent fi­bre lev­els have been shown to be two to 4.5 per­cent­age points lower in mix­tures that in­cluded peas, re­sult­ing in a higher feed in­take po­ten­tial.

Mix­ing field peas with a ce­real grain for for­age has be­come more com­mon. The pri­mary ben­e­fit of peas mixed with ce­re­als is to im­prove qual­ity with a pos­si­ble boost in yield. The Univer­sity of Saskatchew­an tested the ef­fects of in­clud­ing for­age pea in mix­tures with for­age oat and bar­ley on over­all green­feed yield, nu­tri­ent den­sity, palata­bil­ity, dry mat­ter in­take and nu­tri­ent di­gestibil­ity. Data was gath­ered in 2016-17 from sites across Saskatchew­an, in­clud­ing Saska­toon, Melfort and Swift Cur­rent.

Bar­ley, oats and peas were seeded in mono­cul­tures and in mix­tures with seed­ing rates of pea:ce­real of 100:30 and 50:50, with ni­tro­gen (N) fer­til­izer ap­pli­ca­tion rates of ei­ther 60 kg N/ha or no N ap­plied. Bar­ley and pea-bar­ley plots were har­vested when bar­ley was at the hard dough stage, while oat and pea-oat plots were har­vested when oats reached the soft dough stage. Pea seeded as a mono­cul­ture was har­vested at early, mid and late ma­tu­rity. It is im­por­tant to note that the com­po­si­tion of the “ma­ture” green­feed crop dif­fered from the seeded crop; the ra­tio of pea to ce­real in the for­age mix was lower than the ini­tial seed­ing rate ra­tio.

The pea:bar­ley seed­ing rate ra­tio of 50:50 and 100:30 re­sulted in 12 per cent and 29 per cent pea pro­por­tion in the har­vested pea-bar­ley mix­tures, while pea:oat seed­ing rate ra­tios of 50:50 and 100:30 had a pea pro­por­tion of 10 per cent and 23 per cent in pea-oat mix­tures at har­vest. Fer­til­izer ap­pli­ca­tion had no bear­ing on the com­po­si­tion of peas in the ma­ture mix­tures.

The ap­pli­ca­tion of ni­tro­gen fer­til­izer re­sulted in higher costs, but also higher eco­nomic re­turn. The pea-bar­ley mix­tures and bar­ley monocrop had the high­est rate of eco­nomic re­turn at all project lo­ca­tions. The ap­pli­ca­tion of fer­til­izer also re­sulted in in­creased crude pro­tein and yield, mix­tures con­tain­ing peas had the high­est lev­els of crude pro­tein and that level in­creased as the ra­tio of pea in­creased. Pea-ce­real mix­tures had a yield ad­van­tage and less lodging com­pared to the monocrops.

As ex­pected, the crude pro­tein (CP) con­tent of the pea monocrop was higher than re­quired, whereas the CP con­tent of the oat and bar­ley monocrops were too low. The pea-ce­real mix­tures had an ad­e­quate amount of CP to sus­tain both mid-and-late preg­nancy beef cows and re­place­ment beef heifers.

How­ever, lac­tat­ing cows would re­quire an ad­di­tional pro­tein supple­ment to meet their re­quire­ments when they have a calf at side. As ce­real crops ma­ture, neu­tral de­ter­gent fi­bre, (NDF), the fi­bre that lim­its phys­i­cal in­take, in­creases and dry mat­ter con­sump­tion can be re­duced. In this study, NDF was lower in pea-ce­real mix­tures ver­sus the monocrops, re­mov­ing any po­ten­tial phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions and re­sult­ing in an in­crease in dry mat­ter in­take.

So, what does all this mean? In­clud­ing peas into your ce­real green­feed has many ad­van­tages, in­clud­ing im­prove­ments in yield, crude pro­tein and dry mat­ter in­take.

These im­prove­ments present great op­por­tu­ni­ties for beef cat­tle pro­duc­ers, pro­vid­ing them the abil­ity to re­duce the need for some grain or supple­ments in win­ter ra­tions by feed­ing the bet­ter qual­ity for­age cre­ated by in­ter­crop­ping pea with ce­re­als for green­feed.

Jenifer Hey­den M.Sc., PAg, is a Live­stock and Feed Ex­ten­sion Spe­cial­ist, North Bat­tle­ford Re­gional Of­fice

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