ORIGINALLY WRITTEN STAFF
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
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
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN STAFF