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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Dairy Forage Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #241625

Title: Fall Growth, Nutritive Value, and Energy Density for Cereal-Grain Forages in the North-Central United States

item Coblentz, Wayne
item Walgenbach, Richard

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/1/2009
Publication Date: 12/23/2009
Citation: Coblentz, W.K., Walgenbach, R.P. 2009. Fall Growth, Nutritive Value, and Energy Density for Cereal-Grain Forages in the North-Central United States. Journal of Animal Science. 88:383-399.

Interpretive Summary: Beef and dairy producers in the U.S. often use fall-seeded, small-grain crops as a source of high-quality forage. This practice is common with hard-red winter wheat in the Southern Great Plains. However, producers in other regions of the country could potentially make better use of these cereal-grain forages, especially in the fall. This management approach could be used to extend the grazing season or provide a one-time harvest of emergency silage following summer drought. We conducted a study to assess the fall-growth potential of wheat, triticale, and oat cultivars in Wisconsin, and also the quality (fiber composition and energy density) of these forages. Evaluated at 3-week intervals between 15 September and 1 November, yields of dry matter increased over time for all cultivars, but accumulation rates were faster during late September and early October than during late October. Despite continuing increases of yield over harvest dates, the energy density of the forages remained relatively stable. This study shows farmers that they can time the fall harvest of small grains to maximize yield without sacrificing quality.

Technical Abstract: Throughout the Southern Great Plains, wheat is managed frequently as a dual-purpose crop, but this production paradigm is not necessarily applicable throughout other regions of the United States, and a wider array of management options can be considered for forage-only uses of cereal grains. Our objectives were to assess the fall-growth potential of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), triticale (X Triticosecale Wittmack), and oat (Avena sativa L.) cultivars in Wisconsin, and then to further evaluate and compare the fiber composition and TDN of these fall-grown forages. For 2006, yields of DM for all cultivars increased quadratically (P = 0.048) over fall harvest dates, reaching a maximum of 3,967 kg/ha for Ogle oat. All oat cultivars exhibited stem elongation, and also displayed a collective 2 to 1 yield advantage over vegetative wheat cultivars on the final (30 October) harvest date. Growing conditions were more favorable during 2007, and yields were improved for all cultivars. Yields of DM for all cultivars increased quadratically (P = 0.021) across harvest dates, and oat cultivars maintained the identical 2 to 1 yield advantage over wheat cultivars (6,275 vs. 3,203 kg/ha) that was observed for 2006. Triticale exhibited yields intermediate between oat and wheat during both years. Concentrations of NDF increased quadratically (P = 0.012) across harvest dates for all cultivars during both years of the experiment; however, these increases occurred primarily between mid September and early October with limited responses thereafter. Oat and triticale cultivars had greater (P < 0.001) concentrations of NDF than wheat cultivars on 5 of 6 harvest dates throughout the experiment. Estimates of TDN exhibited various polynomial responses to harvest date during 2006, but the magnitude of these changes was relatively small. During 2007, TDN declined linearly (P = 0.038) for grain-type oat, but no relationship with harvest date was observed for other cultivars (P = 0.072), including forage-type oat. Although TDN estimates generally were relatively static across harvest dates, the concentrations of truly digestible components comprising the total TDN pool were quite fluid. Generally, reductions of truly digestible CP were offset by increases in truly digestible nonfiber carbohydrate, truly digestible fiber or both. The relatively stable energy densities for cereal-grain cultivars observed across harvest dates suggest that a broad window of opportunity exists for usage, including a single harvest as silage.