Swath grazing triticale can save a producer time, money and machinery costs – but it isn’t commonly done in the northern parts of the province.
It’s a much different story in the southeast area from Lethbridge to the Saskatchewan border down to the U.S. border, where producers have been feeding triticale to their cattle for the past eight to 10 years.
“That whole area survives on triticale for the cow market,” said Bill Chapman, development officer with Alberta Agriculture in Barrhead. “They’re totally sold on it. It’s been a real success down in that area.”
Chapman is part of a team studying the possibilities of swath grazing in the northwest region of the province, including Barrhead, Mayerthorpe and Stony Plain. The triticale variety “Bunker” is being used for the trials since it has a large biomass and grain yield.
By swath grazing, researchers have reduced yardage costs to around 75 to 80 cents a day. These costs may actually be even lower because machinery is not needed for swath grazing.
“There’s no expensive silage or baling operation,” said Chapman. “All we’re actually doing is swathing that crop, laying it on the ground and letting the cows do the work.”
The Stony Plain research site averages 185 grazing days per acre, Mayerthorpe’s site averaged 211, and Barrhead’s average was 183. An added benefit is that all manure stays out in the field, adding nutrients to the soil.
“This is a real option to add to your perennial forage base because it takes the pressure off your hayfields in the fall when you are harvesting,” said Chapman.
Planting triticale also relieves disease pressure as it’s not susceptible to scald or net blotch.
“By inserting triticale silage into your rotation, you can also increase your barley silage yields by over 15 to 17 per cent the following year because you’ve reduced the amount of disease inoculum in that field,” said Chapman.
Triticale needs to be at mid-dough stage for swath grazing and seeding rates need to be up to two or 2-1/4 bushels per acre. Blending winter and spring wheat or seeding winter triticale can give an option for spring grazing, which will put cows into something that is drier. Pika is the best for winter swath grazing.
“If you mix in a Pika or a Bobcat with spring triticale, you can actually get spring growth for even more months of the year and get that early-spring pasture to keep your cows on and get them out of the yard,” said Chapman. “Some growers will even push the snow off so they can get that area open faster and actually start calving on that area.”