Small Grains for Forage

Gordon C. Marten
HTML Editors: Dr. Jochum Wiersma & Tracy Allrich



Small grain crops can provide excellent quality forage. Data shown in the table represents spring seeded small grain species grown in Minnesota. Quality, crude protein and in vitro digestible dry matter is highest at boot stage when the forage yield was 38 to 42 percent of that at dough stage. These small grains were fertilized with 75 pounds per acre of added nitrogen and not planted as companion crops. Removing small grains at boot stage allows for double cropping with another annual such as sudangrass, rape or ryegrass. Barley and sudangrass produced 4.9 tons dry matter per acre when barley was harvested at boot stage (1.7 from barley) followed by grazing 'trudan' sudangrass for 41 days (mid-August through September). Double-cropping offers reasonable yields of high quality forage, but input costs can be higher than normal (N fertilizer costs approximately $34/A plus seeding and establishment costs).

Table 1. Yield, crude protein and dry matter digestibility of four spring small grain species grown at St. Paul and Rosemount at four stages of maturity.

Small grains

Stage of Maturity.

 

Boot

Milk

Dough

Average

 

-------------- DM yield, T/A --------------------

Wheat

1.45

2.74

3.78

2.44

Triticale

1.71

2.96

4.05

2.64

Oats

1.56

3.01

4.09

2.64

Barley

1.71

3.18

4.39

2.81

 

-------------crude % of DW ------------------

Wheat

22.8

15.7

11.9

16.8

Triiticale

22.2

15.2

11.6

16.3

Oats

20.5

14.6

11.5

15.7

Barley

23.4

15.7

12.3

17.1

 

---------------- IVDDM, % of DW -----------------------

Wheat

76.2

63.3

58.8

66.1

Triticale

79.6

66.4

61.3

69.1

Oats

77.6

61.5

56.8

65.3

Barley

81.3

68.5

64.4

71.4


from: 1982. Proc. 7th Annual MN Forage Day, pp.

Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers

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