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Triticale...cut or graze?

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Nicky

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We have a small field of dryland triticale, it is very light as one would expect with the drought. We are tying to decide whether to cut it or leave it and put the cows on it when they come home. Our concern either way is high nitrates. Any thoughts?
 

Faster horses

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Nitrates is a concern for sure. If you cut it you can control when it is being cut. We have been able to take a sample to the county agent and have them test it so we know what we are dealing with. Cutting it on a sunny day and waiting til later in the day seems to help keep the nitrates down. We cut oats one year and tested it later, it was a bumper crop but it was really high in nitrates. Took forever to get it fed up but we did eventually. There are ways to feed it so that it is safer. Turning the cows in you have no control.
I realize it would be cheaper to let the cows graze it, but I think it would be risky. Will be interesting what others have to say as we have never fed triticale. Good luck, Nicky. Don't know if this helps much.
 

Mountain Cowgirl

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As hay or grazing, I don't think nitrates would be an issue in Triticale unless the field is also heavy with quack grass or Russian thistle. Was the field fertilized? If no nitrogen was added this year and no high nitrate weeds or grasses are a big percentage of the field I would think you are safe, but growing under drought stress can certainly raise the level to toxic. It might be worth having it tested.

I grew Triticale for home milling in 1980. It was all dry unfertilized land and I never had trouble with high nitrate toxicity, but I fed alfalfa with it. I never had luck getting cattle to eat triticale straw standing or cut if there was anything else to eat.

My dryland Triticale mountain field 1980

Trit 80.jpg
 
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Nicky

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We've had it be really high before. Unfortunately we get fairly high nitrate in all our grain hay, even the irrigated. (Not always) We always test before feeding it. It was not fertilized, does have kochia and lambsquarter in it.
 

leanin' H

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Triticale will get really stalky as it matures and cows won’t eat it as well. If ya chopped it, it makes better feed as silage. Even baled after it gets really mature, cattle don’t eat is very well. But I bet ya they will eat it if ya feed it on snow. An old guy used to say that a cow will eat about anything if that’s all they have. I’d test it for sure for nitrates
 

webfoot

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You can also test it before cutting. Back before retiring I did that for a guy who had some oats that he was worried about. Turned out that was reason to be worried.
 

Mountain Cowgirl

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Nicky, if you have the test strips kit, then test it. How long before you would put cattle on it? If high in nitrates would it be better to disc it in and hope for a better year in 2022 or mix with other feed for winter feeding? How high in nitrates is the water the cattle drink? Are you harvesting the grain or leaving that as feed?

I would be surprised if your Triticale is at a dangerous level in nitrates since you didn't fertilize it. How much kochia and lambsquarter is mixed in? If used as pasture do your cattle eat much of the kochia and lambsquarter? What other grasses are mixed in?

It is a tough call this year because of the shortage of fall pasture and winter feed. Also, the ranges may be low on grass a month or more early, so the value of your triticale field rises and the best solution, in my opinion (if high in nitrates), would be to disc it in, losses financial merit. Step one is to test it, then consider other things like water that might add to the nitrate level. Borderline high nitrate levels have been known to cause abortions and other birth defects while not killing cows. This adds another consideration and argument for downsizing the herd so you have enough quality fall and winter feed.
 

Faster horses

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We fed grain hay that tested high in nitrates one winter. We managed it by feeding other hay first, then this last.. So we had them on the nitrate hay and didn't have a problem...until...we moved them across the road to the calving pasture. There was a little of this hay left in the bale processor. So we fed this first, bad mistake. We aborted two calves with nitrate poisoning. It is said the cows can build a tolerance to the nitrates, but they didn't in this case.

High nitrates scares me, yet we fed oat hay for years with no problem and it was never tested. I guess we were too young and dumb to realize it could be dangerous.

Good luck, Nicky. Let us know how it goes.
 

Nicky

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We are leaning towards leaving it, testing it, and hopefully grazing it. It is so light it almost isn't worth the time and machinery cost to put up. I don't have the test strips but am thinking of getting some. Not much grass mixed in, and I don't think they would eat much of the weeds if grazing it. We've never had trouble with kochia but I know some people do.
 

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