Best Management Practices to optimize the use of oats for swath-grazing to extend the grazing season

A two-year grant awarded to the Manitoba Forage Council by the Greencover Canada Program: Technical Assistance Component helped producers access new Best Management Practices (BMP’s) to optimize the use of oats for swath-grazing to extend the grazing season. This aim of swath-grazing is to reduce the confinement feeding of cattle, which in turn should reduce winter feeding costs and manure concentration in feedlot pens. This project was carried out in collaboration with Dr. Shannon Scott, formerly a Research Scientist at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Centre in Brandon, MB.

Manitoba producers often late-seed annual cereals for swath-grazing to extend the grazing season. However, due to the timing of seeding and seasonal plant growth, late-seeded oats for swath-grazing are highly susceptible to a number of leaf diseases, causing tissue damage and loss of both quality and palatability. Therefore, the productivity and disease tolerance of annual forages may have large effects on the performance of beef cattle in a swath-grazing system.

This study was conducted to evaluate the effects of crown rust on the forage yield performance of two oat (Avena sativa L.) cultivars, “HiFi” (Seed Depot Seeds, Pilot Mound, MB) and “CDC Baler” (FarmPure Seeds, Regina, SK) with or without fungicide (Tilt®) application in a swathgrazing system. The cultivar HiFi has good resistance to crown rust, whereas CDC Baler is susceptible to crown rust. Unfortunately, barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) infected both cultivars and may have influenced the results of the study. Forage DM yield, regrowth, and forage residue yield samples were collected from each treatment. The nutritional quality of the samples was also analyzed. The cultivar effect was significant (P < 0.01) for DM yield, regrowth, residue yield, and nutrient quality. The application of fungicide had no influence (P > 0.61) on the DM yield, regrowth, and residue yield of the cultivars. There was no interaction effect (P > 0.16) between cultivar and fungicide application for all yield performances. The results from this study suggest that using a resistant cultivar (HiFi) resulted in greater (P < 0.01) forage DM yield and gross margins. The application of fungicide on HiFi was not economical because of the cultivar’s resistance to crown rust. The HiFi cultivar also showed moderate resistance to BYDV. Although agronomic traits need to be considered in selecting cultivars for swath grazing, it is also important for producers to select cultivars with good disease packages that are environmentally suited to the production area. Because of its susceptibility to BYDV, CDC Baler may not be suitable for swath grazing in areas with severe BYDV infestation.

Project Contact(s): Dr. Shannon Scott
Formerly: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Centre, Brandon, MB
Currently: Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency
Ph: (780) 638-1927
Start Date: 2006
Completion Date: 2008
Funding Partners: Greencover Canada Program: Technical Assistance Component
Project Results: View the final report here.