In recent years there has been a marked increase in the use of cereals for supplementary grazing and silage for dairying.
Cereals provide a high-energy supplement in autumn and winter, or they can be used as a high fibre source in spring. Researchers have developed high-quality cereal feeds with good yield potential by seeking variation among species and cultivar selections in well-managed trials.
Single-bite crops sown during early autumn in Canterbury can provide up to 5.5 t/ha herbage DM yield with at least 17.5 % protein, 12% total soluble carbohydrate, and metabolisable energy (ME) levels of 11.3 MJ/kg in mid-June.
Multiple graze types, such as triticale, have shown similar winter production and quality to single-bite crops in trials, and have produced an additional 13.5 t/ha biomass as a silage crop. And when it was made into silage, this cereal had 9.3 MJ/kg ME with mean levels of 19.5% total soluble carbohydrates. The spring-sown cereals produced up to 20 t/ha for silage, but harvest timing created a wide range in silage quality.
Fodder oats and triticale offer good options for one-off winter grazing from March sowing in Canterbury, with production exceeding 5.5 t/ha by early July.
Multiple-graze triticale provided additional flexibility with equally good early growth and high protein source for multiple grazing in winter, as well as a silage option in late spring. These crops have high nutritive value when vegetative and are suitable for ensiling at this stage.