Timing important for wheat, triticale silage

This spring some producers may be considering using their wheat crop

as hay or silage. What is the best time to harvest wheat or triticale

for silage?

As with all cool season grasses, the nutritional value of cereal

forage is highly dependent on its stage of maturity when harvested. As

with most forages, the crude protein and energy concentration in wheat

and triticale decreases as the plants mature from boot to dough stage.

However, the tonnage of silage or hay per acre almost doubles between

these two stages. Thus the producer has to decide which is most

important- quality or quantity.

For most growing and finishing operations, the late milk to soft dough

stage is the best compromise, producing the maximum tonnage or

protein, energy and beef per acre, while reducing harvesting costs per

ton because of the greater yield per acre.

In contrast to corn and sorghum, wheat and triticale mature very

rapidly, taking only 10-14 days for each maturity stage from boot to

milk to dough. Consequently, producers need to be ready to harvest

rapidly, with the cooperation of the weather.

If the harvesting season gets delayed, silage producers may want to

consider raising their cutter bars and direct cut ?head chop? silage,

reducing harvesting time while increasing energy content of the


As a silage, soft dough wheat or triticale is comparable to high grain

forage sorghum silage and generally has about 80 percent the energy

value of corn silage. However, wheat will generally have 2-3 percent

more protein than sorghum or corn silages on a dry matter basis.

Feeding value is directly related to the potential grain yield. Proper

moisture content is very important in cereal grain silage. Try to

ensile at 60-65 percent moisture for optimum results in most bunker

and upright silos.

Wheat forage can also make excellent hay, especially if hay equipment

is all that?s available. Good wheat or triticale hay makes an

excellent roughage source for starting, growing and finishing cattle,

similar to high quality brome hay in nutritional value. It is

generally recommended to cut wheat somewhat earlier for hay (heading

to milk stage) than silage to enhance its feeding value and reduce

potential mouth problems created by the rough awned varieties. It is

generally not advisable to use a ?crimper? when swathing dough stage

wheat as it tends to thrash out the grain. Cure to 15-18 percent

moisture and bale as tightly as possible to minimize weathering


Which is better, silage or hay? It depends on the producer?s

harvesting equipment and storage capabilities. Harvesting and feeding

losses are considerably less with silage than hay. Plus, cattle

performance favors silage by 10 to 20 percent.

n Wheat variety plot tour. The Marion County Extension Council will

conduct its annual wheat variety demonstration plot tour May 15. Three

plots will be viewed. The tour begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Matt Voth

plot one and a half miles east of Goessel; the second stop is at 6:45

p.m. at the Ervin Ediger plot two miles west of Hillsboro and the

final stop at 8 p.m. is the Backhus/Agri Producers Inc. plot one half

mile west

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