Rye, Triticale, Or Wheat — Which Is Best for Your Operation?

Rye, Triticale, Or Wheat — Which Is Best for Your Operation?

August 28, 2008

If you're thinking about planting wheat, rye, or triticale for spring forage, use this guide to select the right grain for your operation and livestock feeding needs.

  • Rye is your best choice for the earliest pasture possible. It also may be the best match for double cropping. If planted early, some varieties will provide quite a bit of fall growth. Rye also may be the most reliable option when planting under stressful conditions; however, it has its drawbacks. It turns stemmy and matures much earlier than wheat or triticale, losing feed value and palatability earlier in the spring. Plus, wheat grain producers don't want it contaminating fields next year.
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  • Triticale holds on to its feed value better into late spring. This makes it well suited for hay and silage, or for stretching grazing well into June if you don't mind starting two or three weeks later. The disadvantage to triticale is that it tends to be a bit more susceptible to winter injury.
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  • Winter wheat has been the small grain of choice for winter and spring grazing in the southern plains where higher winter temperatures allow growth to continue, although slowly. In Nebraska, where winter wheat goes dormant, its carrying capacity is not as high as triticale or rye, but it is top quality before stems develop. And it's the clear choice if you want it to serve a dual use as early pasture and for grain.

Each of these crops has its advantages and disadvantages — rye for early pasture; triticale for hay, silage, and later grazing; and wheat for grazing plus grain. Consider these and local factors to select the right option for your operation.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist