The utilization of annual crops for whole plant forage production as a primary feed source for livestock producers in the Lakeland is extensive. From use for silage production to extending the grazing season through swath grazing, annual forages encompass a strong economic impact in the livestock sector.
The most common annual crops for forage production are barley and oats, although the use of triticale for swath grazing has been gaining popularity in some parts of the province. Lesser known crops that can be grown for whole-plant forage include peas.
Regional Annual Cereal Variety Trials
An important aspect of crop production is variety selection and, with new varieties continually becoming available, current and comprehensive forage variety yield and quality data is essential to producers. However, there has been a lack of whole-plant annual forage production information to aid producers in making cropping decisions for forage production. The Annual Forage Trials (AFTs) began at LARA in 2008 with the purpose of comparing annual forage crops for whole-plant production when considering both yield and quality.
The inclusion of peas into the production of an annual cereal crop can provide multiple benefits to producers. Fertilizer costs could be reduced due to the ability of peas to fix nitrogen, which could also impact overall soil fertility. Peas have a high protein content and will therefore add protein to the overall forage quality. As well, the inclusion of peas can reduce pressure from grassy weeds. The Forage Pea Trials to look at multiple aspects of pea-cereal agronomy to improve both economics and production.
Although cereals and pulses are the commonly utilized annual crops for whole-plant forage production, there has been increasing interest in alternative forages to provide a possibility for silage and greenfeed as well as possible extended grazing options. To determine the suitability of multiple alternative crops for use as livestock feed, LARA conducts demonstration plots.
Cocktail Cover Crops for Livestock Feed
Cocktail cover crops have been gaining in popularity in recent years, with the acres seeded in Alberta slowly increasing. These crops can be an important tool for producers to generate benefits on farm such as improved soil health, weed suppression, insect management and forage production for livestock feed. Producers have many different options to choose from when it comes to cocktail cover crop species and each species has different abilities to provide depending on root and plant structure and physiology.