The Economic Value of Grazing and Harvesting Cover Crops for Livestock Forage in Between Grain Crops

2015 Annual Report for FNC14-956

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $19,826.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Jennifer Lattire
Lattire Farms

The Economic Value of Grazing and Harvesting Cover Crops for Livestock Forage in Between Grain Crops


2015 Report

In 2015, we collected data from our 2014 planted cover crops and analyzed the nutritional value of the forage products produced from the cover crops. A Purdue Beef Specialist helped analyze the forage products and set up scenarios for best use of different types of forage products. We offered a spring time field day for local cattle producers so they could see the difference in triticale and winter wheat in the field. We also looked at the nutritional value of winter wheat and triticale compared to standard grass hay, timothy hay, and alfalfa. The Beef Nutrition Specialist, Dr. Ron Lemenager made the discussion hands on and used our hay sample reports to help producers put together a timeline of when to use the different qualities of forage. As some producers use silage, and Justin Fleace made a haylage from the triticale and wheat during our trial, we discussed the addition of an ensiled product to normal rations. Because grazing was not established in 2014 or early 2015 as planned, we did not discuss the nutritional value of triticale and winter wheat as a grazing days extender. We hope this can be collected in the spring of 2016.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The research group targeted the nutritional value of the cover crops from the 2014-2015 trial. Green chop, dried hay, and ensiled samples were collected in the spring/early summer. For the 2015-2016 trial, the group is targeting health for the soil and grain crops. The same cover crops were planted in the same fields and the group plans to evaluate root depth and soil health in the spring of 2016.
A second sampling of each cover crop product will be collected for a duplicate analysis of the nutrient value.
Results from this project will be provided in at least two publications, one for nutritional value and one for economic value. We plan to have these drafted and ready for editing by our annual Field day in August 2016.


Cover crops, triticale and winter wheat were planted in October of 2014. There were some delays in planting due to wet conditions while harvesting grain crops. Planting rates were slightly variable by 1/2 a bushel per acre, but were duplicated in 2015 for the 2016 forage harvest. 
The grazing fields did not get planted in 2014, however Jennifer planted triticale and turnips early in 2015 to attempt grazing before planting a grain crop. She was able to graze the field for a week, however the turnips did not grow and the triticale did not have a great stand to graze. She had to wait so long, she decided not to plant that field in a grain crop and planned to attempt grazing again during the spring as part of her pasture rotation. She was able to graze it one more time. In the fall of 2015, she planted triticale and turnips for grazing. It has been warm, but very wet, so grazing on this field in the fall will be minimal. It is expected that grazing will occur in the spring and only on the triticale.
Justin was able to harvest wheat and triticale for silage in May and analyzed the nutrient value in June. The extension educator assisted with sampling each silage and they noted the wheat product was drier than the triticale product in June. After the 2015 bean crops, Justin planted the wheat and triticale in mid October and plans to harvest for silage again in the spring of 2016.
Tony had a delay in harvesting the cover crops for a dried hay product. They were able to harvest in late spring for a late grain crop planting. The analysis for the hay product was collected in June after the hay product had been stored, covered, outside for about a month. He had planned to plant a grazing plot, but the field was not available in the fall of 2014 and has been removed from the research trials. In the fall of 2015, Tony was delayed in harvesting grain crops due to weather and did not plant the cover crops until November. 
Kevin harvested his wheat and triticale dried hay products in May of 2015 and stored them in a barn. They were sampled for analysis in early June. He did not note any major differences in tonnage when baling the cover crops. Kevin forgot about the trial while trying to get fields planted before inclement weather and we had to change the field for the 2015-2016 cover crop trial. The number of acres were approximately the same for the winter wheat/triticale mixed planting, but we were unable to reproduce the wheat and triticale planting trials for 2015-2016. We used the same planting rates. Because Tony is also doing a dried wheat and dried triticale forage product, we were not as concerned as we will still have a duplicate for his products in 2016.

The winter has been extremely mild in 2015, so all cover crops have been able to develop and look great at this point. Depending on weather in 2016, we hope to have great yields for each cover crop in the spring of 2016.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Nutritional Value of triticale and winter wheat

The Cattle Association held their annual Field day in April this year so grazing could be observed and cover crops could be seen in the fields. Unfortunately, due to the grazing field planting delay and cold temperatures in the beginning of 2015, we did not have a great stand and the grazing fields were not ready for grazing at the time of the field day. The other fields showed stunted growth, but a difference in leaf blade length and width were seen between the winter wheat and triticale. 
During the field day, the Purdue Beef Extension Specialist discussed gestation nutrition requirements for the cow and replacement heifers. He began with the different needs between each animal over the entire gestational and lactation timeline. He then took out the analysis of grass hays sampled from Jennifer’s regular grass hay supply and Tony’s wheat hay and did a comparison of the nutritional values as compared to the needs of the cow. Because we looked at real life data from a producer in Harrison County, the producers could really look at how these hay products could compare to their products at home. 
As a group, they determined what would be best to use at the beginning, middle and end of gestation as well as through lactation and breeding to keep the cow and heifers at the best possible body condition score so she would be more likely to rebreed for the following year.

Nutrient Values for all hay, silage, and green chop sampled from the beginning of the trial to the spring of 2015 are included in the attached file.

Because there was never a great stand of turnips to count, we did not calculate field populations for Jennifer’s grazing field. We hope to do this in the winter of 2015-2016. 

Justin reported collecting 5.1 wet tons of winter wheat per acre and 5.3 wet tons of triticale per acre. It was ensiled in May and samples collected in June. He has not fed the silage as of yet.

Tony reported a 3.9 ton per acre yield for the triticale hay as compared to 3.0 ton per acre yield for the winter wheat hay in the spring of 2015. They applied fertilizer for 3.0 ton per acre yields using a combination of liquid hog manure and additives to complete the nutrient profile

Kevin reported 2.56 ton per acre yield for the triticale hay and 3.52 ton per acre yield for the wheat/triticale mixed hay. Kevin had part of the wheat hay wrapped wet due to the weather and part of the wheat dried and baled. From 50 acres, there were 222.73 T of wrapped wheat hay and 31.64 T of dried baled wheat hay. He did not observe acres total for each product, so there is no way to analyze a per acre yield for the wheat hay. We will try to help him observe yields better in 2016. Kevin applied a Nitrogen fertilizer (28) twice in the spring of 2015 at a rate of 34 gallons.


Dr. Keith Johnson
Professor of Agronomy/ Grazing specialist
Purdue University
915 W. State Street
West Lafayette, IN 47907
Office Phone: 7654944800
Kevin Chastain
NRCS District Director
Natural Resources Conservation Services
1855 Gardner Ln NW
Corydon, IN 47112
Office Phone: 8127388121
Dr. Ron Lemenager
Purdue University
915 W. State Street
West Lafayette, IN 47907
Office Phone: 7654944817
Tony Day
D Livestock Co.
6585 Pumping Station Rd.
Elizabeth, IN 47117
Office Phone: 8127372772
Kevin Sieg
Sieg Farm
4810 Clover Valley Rd NW
Ramsey, IN 47166
Office Phone: 8127384129
Westin Rink
Account Manager
Jackson-Jennings Co-Op
2655 Hwy 135 SW
Corydon, IN 47112
Office Phone: 8127381414
Justin Fleace
Fleace Farm
9870 N Tobacco Landing Rd SE
Laconia, IN 47135
Office Phone: 8127362221
Miranda Ulery
ANR Extension Educator
Purdue Cooperative Extension Services
247 Atwood St
Corydon, IN 47112
Office Phone: 8127384236
Tom Ferree

Owner- Barks & Ferree Farms
Barks & Ferree Farms
1800 Heth Washington Rd SW
Central, IN 47110
United States
Office Phone: 1-812-267-1793
Andrew Edge
Farm Manager
Barks & Ferree Farms
516 Heth Washington Rd SW
Corydon, Indiana 47112
United States
Office Phone: 812-267-5485