Submitted to: Forage Focus
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/1/2018
Publication Date: 5/8/2018
Citation: Coblentz, W.K. 2018. Triticale for dairy forage systems. Forage Focus. pp. 14-16.
Technical Abstract: Triticale forages have become increasingly important components of dairy-cropping systems. In part, this trend has occurred in response to environmental pressures, specifically a desire to capture N and other nutrients from land-applied manure, and/or to improve stewardship of the land by providing winter ground cover. In most cropping systems, triticale functions as a winter-annual forage that includes fall establishment after the removal of corn silage or soybeans, followed by a harvest of silage the following spring or early summer. Historically, there are two often-recommended growth stages for the harvest of cereal-grain forages, which are the boot and soft-dough stages of growth. Typically, a soft-dough harvest often maximizes dry matter (DM) yield; however, triticale forages will not reach this stage of growth throughout central Wisconsin until about 1 July, which effectively precludes a subsequent double-crop of corn or soybeans because of the short growing season. In contrast, a boot-stage harvest has inherent yield limitations, but occurs about Memorial Day, yields dairy-quality forage, and also permits a subsequent double-cropping strategy. Recent research has evaluated the effects of growth stage on the yield, quality, and digestibility of triticale forages. Results indicate that nutritional characteristics of triticale forages are heavily influenced by two competing processes. These include the normal maturation effects that reduce the quality of most forages juxtaposed against the physiological process of grain fill. Energy content and DM digestibility are improved by grain fill, but fiber digestibility is not. Furthermore, a fairly severe yield reduction (~ 70 to 75%) can be expected by an early harvest at boot stage compared to soft-dough. While these considerations are largely predictable, an informed harvest-management decision for lactating cows may still favor an early harvest because of superior nutritional characteristics, a need to plant double-cropped corn expeditiously, or both.