Determine the swath grazing and forage quality potential of Westford forage barley and Manta and German foxtail millet for beef cattle in southwest Saskatchewan
The drought and poor moisture conditions experienced throughout Saskatchewan has revealed the potential that certain foxtail millets can play as an important short-season hay or grazing resource. The study’s objectives were to 1) determine the swath grazing performance of cow/calf pairs on Westford barley (WB) (Hordeum vulgare), and on two foxtail millets (Setaria italica), German (G) and Manta (M); 2) determine the forage quality composition of the WB and millets at different stages of maturities and during field curing. In 2002, the WB and the two millets were each seeded into a 2.2 acre field and each cereal treatment was replicated twice (n = 6). Seeding rate for the WB and millets were 80 and 12 lbs per acre, respectively. In 2003, all cereals were once again seeded into the same fields. In 2002, the WB was swathed at the soft dough stage and the G and M were at the boot and heading stage of maturity, respectively. Eight cow/calf pairs were used to graze each of the G and M pastures, but the WB forage material spoiled before cattle could graze. Poor moisture conditions experienced in the summer of 2003 produced little WB and millet growth, thus no grazing data was collected. 2002 results found higher % ADF and NDF and lower % CP and OMD for the millets compared to the WB. Animal performance (i.e., ADG, TLP etc.) did not differ (P>0.10) between the two millets. Calves gained between 1.8 to 1.9 lbs per day while on the millet pastures; however cows on average lost weight. Forage quality (i.e., OMD and CP) of the two millet swaths did not change 32 days post harvest even though the swaths were rained on. Although the millets show excellent forage and grazing potential in 2002 the poor performance of the millets in 2003 reveals the need for longer grazing and forage research to be conducted to truly evaluate their overall potential for southwest Saskatchewan.
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