Winter cereals as a pasture-hay system in Montana
Hafla, Aimee Nicole
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In 2006 - 2008 'Willow Creek' winter wheat and 'Trical 102' triticale were evaluated for biomass production and forage quality under grazing and hay systems in Montana. Forage cultivars of winter wheat and triticale were subjected to a single grazing event at three growth stages (vegetative, boot, or heading) in the late spring. Subsequent regrowth from each grazing event was harvested as hay. Growth of winter cereals was modeled with environmental conditions. Both cultivars reached 100% headed between accumulated growing degree day (base 5 C°) 1090 and 1245 (between July 7 and 13) during the three year trial. During this period, winter cereals experienced rapid forage growth, and grew 1.4 to 2.6 cm daily and produced 87 to 248 kg ha-1 daily. In two years, triticale had superior forage biomass compared to winter wheat. Forage quality of winter cereals was excellent at the vegetative stage of growth and declined until the final forage harvest dates. At all growth stages winter wheat and triticale had similar levels of forage quality. However, the rates of digestibility of winter wheat pasture and hay were greater than those of triticale. When grazed at increasing stages of maturity, winter cereals demonstrated variable forage regrowth yield and quality. Delaying grazing until later dates coincided with hot and dry growing season conditions and limited forage regrowth potential. Regrowth of grazed cereals declined in forage quality with advancing maturity. Nitrate concentrations were high enough to concern producers with pregnant livestock grazing in spring or when grazing regrowth. Grass tetany was found to be a potential risk to lactating livestock grazing early vegetative winter cereal forage. In a whole animal digestion trial, winter wheat hay was had similar digestibility when compared to traditional grass alfalfa hay, in a sheep maintenance diet. Winter cereals can offer producers a viable option for a pasture-hay system in Montana. Maximum total biomass was a single cutting of hay at anthesis and early grain development. Therefore, it will be necessary for livestock producers to consider total biomass, availability and cost of pasture and hay, and forage quality, when using a pasture-hay system in Montana.