Crop can be planted from early spring to early June and still be swathed for grazing in September without yield loss
LETHBRIDGE — Perennial forage acres are declining across Western Canada and because of the expense of replacing them, farmers leave them in longer and the stands become less productive over time.
“Those have to be replaced with something and that provides opportunity for an annual forage like triticale or barley or corn,” said forage specialist Vern Baron of the Agriculture Canada Research Centre at Lacombe, Alta.
The attributes of triticale were discussed at an international symposium held in Lethbridge July 16-17.
Baron’s research includes studying the value of triticale as an annual forage or pasture crop. In Western Canada, it is often used for swath grazing or in annual mixtures for grazing.
Winter feed in Western Canada costs about $3.30 per head per day. That includes the cost of growing, processing, storing and delivering it to livestock. Producers need to make sure they have at least 200 days’ worth of feed in a region with limited days of actual growth.
Triticale could offer an economical choice, provided it is correctly managed.
For swath grazing, it could be planted in mid-June and swathed in mid-September. The cows can graze it from early November until March.
Barley was the first crop studied in swath-grazing research and it was found that yields declined as planting was delayed to accommodate swath grazing. Triticale was less sensitive and could be planted from early spring to early June and could still be swathed in September without a yield loss. It added resilience to the system.
Five years of research at Lacombe monitored the costs of using barley, corn and triticale in swaths.
The crops cost about the same to grow but the daily cost of triticale made it cheaper to feed at about $1.20 per head per day compared to a barley swath that saved about 70 cents a day over traditional feeding practices.
Savings were gained because there was less labour involved and less fuel consumed when the cows grazed on their own in winter rather than having feed hauled to them.
Different varieties of triticale make a difference and some exhibited lower digestibility and low acceptance. It is a waste if the cows won’t eat it.
Researchers also learned mixtures of winter and spring triticale have an advantage as a complementary forage source.
Triticale also needs different management.
“Triticale has not been treated for its attributes and the controls have usually been barley or corn. Harvests have occurred when barley and corn should occur, not triticale, “ he said.
If winter triticale is planted in August or September, the forage quality is equivalent to fall rye grass. It has high sugar and high fibre digestibility. The crop is also less susceptible to diseases that plague barley.
Triticale silage is another option but needs to be treated differently than barley to take advantage of dry matter yield.
Triticale starch accumulation is slower than barley and if left until there is 30 to 40 percent dry matter, there will be more starch and digestible fibre available.
Overall, it is a good addition to a forage plan.
“Spring and winter triticale planted alone or in mixture can extend grazing season, summer, fall and winter,” he said.
“For triticale, timing of harvest is relative to percent dry matter, starch and digestibility has to be considered in production systems in order for them to be successful,” he said.
Triticale grain has also been studied. It out-yields other cereal grains in arid and marginal lands and is a suitable feed for monogastrics and ruminants, said Jayakrishnan Nair, a ruminant nutritionist with Agriculture Canada at the Lethbridge Research Centre.
Triticale has more crude protein and starch than rye, but it is lower than wheat. The crude protein and amino acid balance is higher than corn and provides good value when it is added to the diet.
The fibre content is higher than corn but lower than barley.
The structure of the grain is similar to rye so it has to be processed to release the starch in the same way as corn and barley. Steam flaking releases the starch and improves digestibility and increases energy value so it is close to corn in feed value.
When fed to dairy cows, milk production was higher but the weight gain did not change when compared to other grains.
Sheep trials showed the grain did not need to be processed and animals gained well.
It is also good in swine rations and can be added to the diet because of the higher protein, digestibility and good dry matter intake.
“For non-ruminants, the higher protein is a big plus and so in diets containing triticale for non-ruminants, the protein source, like soybean meal, can be reduced,” he said.
Dried distillers grains derived from triticale showed a protein content higher than corn and fibre content comparable to other grain DDGs.
The inclusion rate for pigs is of five to 10 percent triticale DDGs but higher rates adversely affect performance.
Broilers can handle 10 to 15 percent DDGs in their diet, with added enzymes, without adverse effects.