Header Side Menu Content Footer
Government of Manitoba
Agriculture, Food and Rural Development
Get Started
Stay Connected
to Manitoba Agriculture

Stay Connected
to the Manitoba Government

To view PDF files, you must have a copy of the Adobe Acrobat Reader which is available as a free download:

Get Adobe Reader

Annual Forage Crops for Manitoba

Annual crops for forages can be used to provide an additional source of hay, silage or pasture when perennial forage crops are in short supply.

There are many annual crops and options available to producers provided they make their plans early in the growing season. When planting annuals early in the spring, producers can take advantage of spring moisture, cooler conditions, less evaporation and larger selection of crops which can be used.

Regional trials were seeded in the Central, Northwest, Interlake, Southwest and Eastern regions in 1984, 1985, 1989 and 1990. The purpose of these trials was to compare the performance of various crops grown on similar soil types, moisture and fertility conditions. Each species was fertilized according to soil test recommendations. Square meters were harvested to determine yield. The samples were analyzed for moisture, protein and total digestible nutrients.

Table of Contents

Summary of Annual Trials 1984, 85, 89 & 90 (Harvested as Green Feed)

Crop

No. of Replications lbs./ac. % Protein lbs. Prot./ac. % TDN lbs. TDN/ac.
Corn*

(7)

5248

12.00

639

62.00

3253

Barley

(56)

4978

12.38

616

65.74

3272

Oats

(57)

4745

12.45

591

64.94

3081

Peas*

(5)

4540

19.00

862

56.40

2560

Wheat

(48)

4521

11.26

509

62.80

2839

Triticale*

(13)

4475

10.48

469

57.10

2555

Spring Rye*

(7)

4454

9.56

426

54.10

2410

Sorghum*

(8)

4402

10.89

475

58.75

2586

Rapeseed*

(6)

3790

15.31

580

58.50

2217

Sweet Clover*

(3)

3669

18.40

675

65.00

2384

Sib. Millet

(55)

3457

11.51

398

63.70

2202

Sorghum Sudan

(55)

3301

9.63

318

32.54

2064

Fababeans*

(8)

3041

17.71

539

63.32

1926

Proso Millet

(53)

2897

11.21

325

65.40

1895

Sunflowers*

(3)

2661

11.70

311

57.02

1517

Alfalfa*

(4)

2482

17.91

445

67.01

1663

Barmultra*                         
Ryegrass

(38)

2798

15.39

430

65.74

1839

Barspectra*                            
Ryegrass

(42)

1962

16.30

320

63.45

1245

Fall Rye*                        
Spring Seeded

(4)

1352

21.77

288

62.18

840

*Crops tested in 1984 and 1985 only.

Corn

If the crop is to be used for pasture or green chop it can be sown in 7 or 14 inch (18 or 36 cm) rows at rates of 50 to 100 lbs. of seed per acre (56 to 112 kg/ha). If a wide row planter is being used, double rows can be planted by sowing and coming back 6 or 8 inches (15 or 20cm) over from the row already planted.

If used as pasture, the corn field should be divided into sections and rotationally grazed. Where possible, corn should be left for silage because it increases in feeding value and feed production per acre as it reaches maturity.

Oats, Barley, Wheat, and Rye Pasture

Fall rye and winter wheat can provide excellent late fall and early spring pastures. An application of 50 lbs/acre (56 kg/ha) of actual nitrogen fertilizer applied before spring growth starts will provide added herbage. Winter wheat does not have the same carrying capacity as fall rye. Rye can cause off-flavors in milk, so cattle should be taken off rye pastures a couple of hours before milking. Fall rye seeded in spring can provide excellent summer grazing.

Oats seeded in spring can provide pasture 6 to 8 weeks after planting, and can be plugged into the system to provide extra pasture anytime from May to fall frost. Oats may be grazed lightly in the vegetative stage and left for regrowth and regrazing. At the boot stage, growth is very rapid and unless rotationally grazed, wastage is high. Oats, like most cereals will provide some regrowth when pastured early.

Barley generally produces higher dry matter yields than oats but is not as palatable and is better used for silage than for pasture. For hay, oats should be cut at the early dough stage. It should be conditioned and will even take a little longer than ordinary hay to cure. As an emergency hay crop oats is probably the best annual crop available.

If oats or barley are to be used as hay or silage, adding of peas (50 per cent of total weight) when planting will raise the protein level by 2 to 4 per cent.

Barley, with peas added, provides a high protein silage that can provide an excellent ration for beef cattle. Barley added to sudangrass or sorghum sudan hybrids at one bushel per acre is a distinct advantage in making silage. The extra grain present helps counteract the problem of high plant moisture usually encountered in those crops.

ANNUAL FORAGES

Crops Optimum Seeding Date Seeding Deadline Rate Kg/Ha Seeding* Depth (cm) Days to Emergence Days to Maturity Stage to Harvest or Graze
Oats

May 1 - Jun 20

Mid-Sept

90 - 115

4 - 7

10

100 - 103

For Hay - cut early dough stage For Pasture - boot stage
Barley

May 1 - May 31

June 20

90 - 120

4 - 5

8

84 - 90

Early dough
Wheat

May 1 - May 31

June 20

100 - 135

3 - 8

10

99 - 105

Mid dough
Triticale

Apr 15 - May 15

June 1

110 - 150

5

10

104 - 108

Early dough
Spring Rye

May 1 - May 31

June 20

45 - 95

2.5 - 5

12

80

Early dough
Fall Rye

Aug 25 - Sep 15

Sept 15

45 - 95

2.5 - 5

10

88 - 104

Graze at 15-20 cm;

silage cut - early dough stage

Corn

May 1 - May 25

June 10

55,000 - 70,000

2.5 - 5

5-10

100 - 115

65-70% moisture
Peas

May 1 - May 25

June 10

130 - 200

5 - 8

8

89 - 93

     
Siberian Millet

May 25 - Jul 10

Jul 15

20 - 25

1 - 2.5

10

60 - 90

Early heading
Proso Millet

May 15 - Jul 10

Jul 15

25 - 35

1 - 2.5

10

85 - 90

Early heading to bloom stage
Sorghum

May 15 - Jun 1

June 5

6 - 8

2.5 - 3.5

10

  

Mid dough
Sorghum Sudan Hybrids

May 26 - Jun 16

Jul 5

20 - 30

1 - 2.5

10

     

Graze at 60-70 cm; cut early;

dough stage for green feed

Fababeans

Apr 25 - May 25

May 25

135 - 180

5 - 10

10

102 - 112

10-20% pods black
Sunflowers

May 1 - Jun 5

June 10

40,000 - 50,000

8 - 10

12

110 - 120

35-45% moisture
Ryegrass (Italian)

Apr 10 - Jun 1

June 5

20

less 2

6-10

40 - 60

Early flowering 5-6 wks after seeding
Ryegrass (westerwold)

Apr 10 - Jun 1

June 5

20

less 2

6-10

40 - 60

Early flowering 5-6 wks after seeding
Argentine Rape

May 5 - May 30

June 10

6 - 8

1.5 - 4

5-8

90 - 100

    
Polish Rape

May 5 - Jun 15

June 25

5 - 7

1.5 - 4

5-8

75 - 85

   
Pasture Rape

May 15 - Jun 10

June 15

6

1.5 - 3.5

7

      

  
Red Clover

May 1 - Jun 10

June 15

7

1 - 2.5

7

    

  
Sweet Clover

May 1 - Jun 10

Jun 15

11

1 - 2.5

7

   

Early bloom or bud stage

*2.5 cm equals 1 inch

Sorghum Forages

Members of the sorghum family include sudangrass, sorghum sudangrass hybrids and sorghums. They flourish under hot conditions and tolerate drought better than corn. They are not quite as productive and their feeding value is a little less than corn. For pasture and for hay, sudangrass, with stems about the size of a pencil, is probably the first choice of the group.Sudangrass will tolerate lower temperatures and poorer drainage than sorghum or sorghum/sudan hybrids. To cure for hay, sudangrass needs to go through a conditioner more than once, and even then does not cure as rapidly as regular hay or oats. For green chop or silage, sorghum/sudan grass hybrids are better than sudangrass because of their larger plant growth and higher production per acre. The sorghum family regrows after cutting or grazing.

Sorghums, sudangrass and sorghum/sudan hybrids should be seeded about June 1 at a depth of 1 to 2.5 inches (2.5 to 4 cm). Delay seeding these crops until soil temperature is greater than 10degrees C. For hay, pasture or green chop, 7 to 14 inch (18 to 36 cm) rows are recommended. Fertilizer requirements are about the same as for corn.

Caution: All members of the sorghum family contain a compound called prussic acid. Normally the amount is not enough to cause problems. However, new growth, plants suffering from drought or frosted plants contain much higher levels of prussic acid than normal. As a safety precaution, none of the sorghum family should be grazed or cut before they are 18 to 24 inches (46 to 61 cm). If frost hits these crops, do not pasture until the frosted plant material has dried completely.

Weeds can also be a problem in these crops since no recommended herbicides are available for weed control.

Millets

These crops are similar in feeding value to sudangrass but the yield is lower. They should be sown in early June, broadcast or in rows, at 20 to 25 lbs (22.5 to 28 kg/ha) of seed per acre. They are easier to cure for hay than sudangrass. Millets can be fairly productive as a pasture but is not highly adapted for this purpose because they lack regrowth ability and are subject to grazing injury. They are another crop that would benefit from the addition of half a bushel of peas per acre.

Siberian millet (foxtail) is better for yield and quality than Proso millet (grain or crown millet). Siberian millet, often referred to as foxtail millet, has a better leaf to stem ratio than proso millet. Foxtail millet can be cut for hay 65 to 70 days after seeding.

Delay seeding of millets until soil temperatures are 10 degrees C.

Ryegrass

Italian and Westerwold ryegrasses are two forage types that can be grown for pasture and hay. Italian ryegrass is leafy and reaches a height of up to 16 inches (40 cm) which makes it suitable as a pasture grass. Westerwold ryegrasses range in height from 16 to 32 inches (40 to 80 cm) and may be used for hay or pasture. Ryegrasses can provide a valuable addition of forage for fall grazing or harvesting from late summer into the fall season. Sown at 20 lbs/acre (22.5 kg/ha) in pure stands, or 8 to 10 lbs/acre (9 to 11 kg/ha) with cereals or legumes, this grass can produce a good growth of excellent pasture in 6 to 8 weeks. This crop can be used to good advantage as a high quality supplementary pasture for dairy cattle. Ryegrasses require good moisture conditions for yield and regrowth.

Establishment Tips

Seedbed Preparation

Prepare a fine, firm seedbed. A firm seedbed is essential in order to control seeding depth. Shallow seeding is preferable for quick emergence and establishment.

Seeding Rates

When planting annuals for pasture or under dry conditions, the upper seeding rates should be used. Under normal moisture conditions, the level of nitrogen can increase the stooling rate of a crop.However, under dry conditions plants do not grow as vigorously, so the seeding rate should be increased to compensate for this lack of stooling.

Fertility

Have a soil test done to determine what fertilizer rate is needed. Drill in as much phosphorous and nitrogen fertilizer with the seed as the crop will tolerate (some crops will not tolerate nitrogen fertilizer in contact with seed). Phosphorous fertilizer will help to develop a deep and extensive rooting system necessary for the plant to establish under dry conditions.

Weed Control

Good weed control is necessary for the establishment of annuals for forages. Be aware of specific weed problems that are present and whether they can be controlled by recommended herbicides for that crop. Refer to Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives Guide to Crop Protection.

Harvesting and Storage

Knowing when to harvest is the key to growing annuals for forages profitably. Crops should be harvested at the proper stage of maturity and stored at the correct moisture level.

When annuals are cut or grazed at an early stage, palatability is high, protein is high, but total yield may be low. If left to maturity, protein is lower and total yield is higher.

Unrestricted grazing or continual grazing, invariably is wasteful of pasture. Trampling and soiling losses can be greater than the amount of pasture consumed. This is especially true in the case of stiff-stalked plants such as corn, sorghum and sorghum sudangrass hybrids. Even in the case of relatively pasture-tolerant crops, such as oats or rye, rotational or strip grazing will increase yields and improve quality of pasture.

Remember that all crops growing under stress conditions are subject to nitrate poisoning and should be tested.

Green chop or zero grazing does require time and equipment, but this may be well justified when feed is in short supply, and yield and quality are important.

Harvest management will be dependent on many factors. The period of the season when extra feed is needed, the labor, equipment and storage facilities available, all will have to be considered in deciding what crops to grow and how to manage them. Consideration of various crops, their strong points, and weaknesses will help in planning efficient forage production.


Bookmark and Share