Annual Forages for Integrated Crop and Livestock Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1998: $52,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2001
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $52,000.00
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Burt Weichenthal
Panhandle Research and Extension Center, University of Nebraska

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, millet, oats, sorghum (milo), soybeans, wheat
  • Animals: bovine, sheep
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, stockpiled forages, winter forage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures


    Dryland and irrigated annual forage trials were conducted over two years to update forage production and quality characteristics for the Central High Plains region. Spring triticale, barley, oat and field pea cultivars were tested at Sidney, NE (elevation 4300 ft above sea level). Winter triticale and wheat cultivars were tested at Sidney, McCook and Mead, NE. Soybean cultivars were tested at Archer, WY (elevation 6000 ft). Summer annual forages tested under dryland at Sidney and/or irrigated management systems at Scottsbluff (elevation 4000 ft) included as many as 9 forage sorghum, 6 sorghum x sudangrass, 1 sudangrass, 3 pearl millet and 9 foxtail millet cultivars. A single cut harvest system was used for both dryland and irrigated forages planted with a double disc grain drill in 6 row plots with 12 inches between rows. A plot swather was used for harvest after most cultivars had headed. Samples were taken immediately after chopping for drying for laboratory feed quality tests.

    Winter triticale cultivars yielded an average of 6400 lb of dry matter per acre at Sidney compared to 5200 lb for winter wheat. A triticale cultivar also had the highest yield (4900 lb) among spring forages. Dryland summer forages other than the foxtail millets had an average dry matter yield of 5490 lb per acre over two years at Sidney while irrigated cultivars other than the foxtail millets averaged 12,120 lb per acre at Scottsbluff. Irrigated foxtail millet yields averaged 6490 lb per acre at Scottsbluff for the same years, and dryland foxtail millet yields of 4 cultivars averaged 3060 lb per acre at Sidney for 1997 and 1999. Yields of field pea cultivars in 1998 and 1999 and soybean cultivars in 1999 generally averaged less than 1.5 tons of dry matter per acre.

    Forage quality tests were conducted for crude protein, nitrate nitrogen, in vitro dry matter digestibility, neutral detergent fiber, acid detergent fiber and acid detergent lignin. For dryland summer annual forages, the average crude protein content in 1999 was about half that for 1998. The main differences between years were less favorable total amount and timeliness of rainfall in 1999 along with less fertilizer applied. Nitrate nitrogen levels were generally not a problem except for irrigated foxtail and pearl millets where levels approached or exceeded 2000 ppm which is often used as a threshold for toxicity concerns. This problem could likely be controlled by regulating the amount of nitrogen fertilizer applied to these crops. Laboratory determinations indicated that some of the brown midrib (BMR) cultivars in the forage sorghum or sorghum x sudangrass hybrids had the lowest acid detergent lignin fiber levels and the highest dry matter digestibilities, thus making more forage energy available to support animal performance. Mineral levels were determined in 1999 samples for use in formulating animal diets.

    Project objectives:

    The objectives of this project were
    (1) interact with farmer cooperators to evaluate the role of annual forages for whole-farm sustainability;
    (2) evaluate yield and nutrient determinations on selected annual forage varieties;
    (3) create a protein degradability database on annual forages for beef ration formulation/evaluation with the new metabolizable protein system; and
    (4) monitor potential concerns for annual forage production, such as pest problems, soil water status and forage nitrate levels.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.