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Cutting Greenfeed - Timing is Everything

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   July 31, 2011 18:34

Colby Elford - Regional Livestock Specialist

Moose Jaw Regional Office, Ministry of Agriculture

Andre Bonneau – Forage Management Specialist

Moose Jaw Regional Office, Ministry of Agriculture


Greenfeed is useful feed source for cattle producers across the province.  Most annual forage crops are very productive as forage and fit well into crop rotations.  Oats, barley, and triticale are the most commonly used greenfeed crops.  Millet, corn, winter triticale and fall rye have also increased in popularity.


When planning to cut these crops for greenfeed, it’s important to remember they are not all the same.  Oats, rye and triticale should be cut in the milk stage while barley is best cut at the dough stage for a good balance of quality and yield.  Into the dough stage, triticale, rye and oats will likely be less palatable. 


As the plant develops from the boot stage to the hard dough stage, protein levels and energy content decreases while the fibre content of the straw increases.  This will have a negative effect on digestibility.  Not all crops decline in quality at the same rate.  Barley holds its quality much longer than oats, rye, or triticale.  Watch the staging of your greenfeed crop to be sure that you are harvesting the full potential of your crop. 


Another option is to turn the greenfeed crop into Yellowfeed.  Yellowfeed is the practice of applying glyphosate to the crop and allow the crop to desiccate and cure while left standing.  The plant will continue to grow for a short period after being sprayed until the glyphosate takes effect.  Consider this lag time when timing the glyphosate treatment.  The crop should be sprayed early enough prior to the desired harvest stage of the crop.  The time it takes will depend on growing conditions: application under good growing conditions need at least 3 days while the glyphosate needs more time under poor conditions.  One litre per acre of the original formulations should be enough to make yellowfeed.


The crop can then be cut and baled as normal but keep in mind the crop may lodge after seven days as the straw hasn’t had time to fully develop.  Since the crop is allowed to dry while standing, weathering loss can be minimized and producers can harvest their forage crop at the correct stage. 

For more information on greenfeed and yellowfeed, contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1 866 457-2377.