Rye, Triticale, or Wheat Which Best Fits Your Spring Forage Need?

Rye, Triticale, or Wheat Which Best Fits Your Spring Forage Need?

August 24, 2013

If you're looking at which small grain — wheat, rye, or triticale — to plant for spring forage, consider their charactistics and which best fit your needs.

Cereal rye is your best choice for the earliest pasture possible. Because it's early, it also may be the best match for double cropping. Some varieties also provide quite a bit of fall growth if planted early. Rye also may be the most reliable when planted under stressful conditions. However, rye does have some 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.

Triticale holds on to its feed value best 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. But it tends to be a bit more susceptible to winter injury.

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 wheat goes dormant, though, its carrying capacity is not as high as triticale or rye, but it is top quality before stems develop. It's also the clear choice if you want to get double use as early pasture and grain.

In summary, use rye for early pasture, triticale for hay, silage, and later grazing, and wheat for grazing plus grain. You may have other factors affecting your choice, but in general, these guidelines work well.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist