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Cereal crops, including barley, oats, ryecorn, and triticale, play varied roles in dairy farming. Barley, sown either in autumn or spring, matures quicker than wheat or triticale and provides winter feed. It's essential to prepare a fine seedbed as barley is sensitive to soil capping. Sow oats in spring for silage or grazing, or combine autumn sown oats with ryegrass for sustained yields. Unlike barley and oats, ryecorn is suitable for dryland grazing but not for silage. Triticale, with its different cultivars, offers high-quality grazing and silage options, and its yields are abundant when sown in autumn.
Barley cultivars are either autumn or spring sown. Autumn sown cultivars are grown for repeated light winter grazings that each yield 2-3 t DM/ha; these grazings are often followed by whole crop silage or a light seed crop. Spring sown cultivars are grown for high quality whole crop silage that typically yields 4-8 t DM/ha.
Barley matures faster than either wheat or triticale, so can be the preferred species when crops cannot be planted until mid to late spring. October is considered a ‘late’ spring sowing in Canterbury and December is ‘late’ for sowing in Southland.
Temperature determines the speed at which the crop develops, barley is slightly less tolerant of cool soil temperatures than wheat or triticale.
Barley is sometimes sown as a cover crop for establishing lucerne, and can also be oversown into existing lucerne stands to provide winter active feed.
Barley is more sensitive to soil capping, which can severely influence plant establishment, so requires a finer seedbed than other cereals.
Oats can be sown in spring for a 70 to 80-day green chop silage, or a single graze crop with typical yields of 4-6 t DM/ha. Oats can also be sown in late summer through to late autumn for a single grazing in winter; the yield is usually between 4-8 t DM/ha.
Oats are best suited single grazing; or multiple cut and carry where height is controlled. Quality changes with maturation, protein decline and soluble carbohydrate increasing.
Where growth is required into spring for extra grazings or silage production, autumn sown oats can be combined with annual or Italian ryegrass. The oats will make up the bulk of the first grazing, while the ryegrass will dominate during the following grazings.
Oats are used less often for whole chop silage because they have a lower grain to straw ratio and lower ME than other cereal options. They are often a good option for mixing with a legume such as peas.
Ryecorn is used in dryland situations where it is sown in early summer for grazing through until spring. It can be grazed many times, and will yield 2-3 t DM/ha at each grazing; a harvest of a light seed crop can follow this. Ryecorn is not suitable for whole crop silage.
There are a range of triticale cultivars to suit spring sowing and early autumn sowing. Triticale can be an early spring sown for whole crop silage that typically yields 10-16 t DM/ha. Single and multiple-grazing type triticale varieties can also be sown in the autumn.
Multiple-grazing type triticale can be sown in early autumn for up to three grazings over winter followed by whole crop silage. These crops have high nutritive value in the vegetative stage and are suitable quality for ensiling.
Yields from autumn sowing are 2-5 t DM/ha per grazing, and 14-20 t DM/ha of silage.