Producers using integrated cropping and cattle systems identified a need to research options for dealing with early spring and late fall forage deficiencies. This project, “Winter Hardy Small Cereal Cover Crops for Grazing and Silage in Nebraska” will evaluate the opportunity for cereal rye, winter wheat or winter triticale to fill these gaps. The use of these small grains may be a way to provide inexpensive, high quality forage and improve sustainability of cropping systems in the North Central Region. Cereal rye is the most commonly planted cover crop in corn and soybean systems. Winter wheat and winter triticale are also sometime used. These species all have the potential to produce forage that can either be grazed in the early spring before perennial pastures are ready for grazing or can be cut for silage and used as a source of forage in the fall and winter. However, they will likely differ in growth pattern and thus timing of when they are ready to graze or harvest in the spring. Therefore an objective of this project is to investigate the grazing potential of three species, including the timing of the start of grazing and nutritive value of forage as measured by cattle gain. Another objective is to compare these species for spring silage production. To better understand how each species may fit into a crop rotation the relative timing of maturation of each species coupled with the yield and nutritive value at various maturity stages will be evaluated. This information will better equip producers when making cover crop species choices and management decisions for their operation.
Project objectives from proposal:
This study will:
- Directly compare cereal rye, winter wheat and winter triticale as a source of early spring grazing to provide an understanding of the relative timing that grazing can be initiated, the carrying capacity and nutritive value of forage
- Evaluate the relative timing of maturation of cereal rye, winter wheat, and winter triticale as well as yield and nutritive value at various maturity stages to better understand how each species may fit into a crop rotation and feeding system
As a result:
- Nebraska Extension will be able to provide research based information to producers about the use of winter hardy small cereals for early spring grazing or silage production
- Producers will be more confident in making decisions regarding the selection and use of winter hardy small cereals for early spring grazing or silage production