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management

straight sugar. The remains of the swath had a relative feed value of only 109 but the protein content of the swath, three months after cutting, was 26.3 per cent. We have never tested anything that high,” he says. The main cost is the fertilizer. “Depending on how good a stand we have after we take the silage crop off the field (the barley and first growth of ryegrass) we put on something between 150 to 200 pounds of urea 4600 fertilizer per acre, which adds cost. But if you don’t fertilize it to get the regrowth, it doesn’t do very well at all,” explains Andy. “One of the first years we grew ryegrass and were taking off the silage, my father-in-law started to fertilize behind us. He caught up to us and we had about eight swaths left. He

stopped and let us finish and then he fired up again, to put on that last bit of fertilizer. He forgot to turn the PTO on for the spreader so it was mostly all deposited in a line behind the machine. We ended up with a foot-wide line where every plant was burned out. On each side there was a five-foot area where everything was lush and thick. Then the rest of it, that didn’t get any fertilizer, even though it was under irrigation, didn’t grow enough to pay for the seed and the seeding.You can’t get away without fertilizer. But we really like this crop because it gives us an extra five to six weeks of grazing in the fall for the entire cow herd and provides excellent feed,” he says. The only drawback is the higher birth weights. “If a person were calving in April,

several months after being on this kind of feed, it probably wouldn’t make a difference. But for us, starting to calve the first of February (after grazing ryegrass during December and January), it really puts more weight on those calves before they are born.” For the past three years they’ve grazed the ryegrass until the middle of January, which means the cows that start calving the first of February are at highest risk for larger calves. Andy has been using Italian ryegrass for about 12 years. “Another Alberta Hereford breeder — east of us, in the Brooks area — that we shared a bull with at that time, had used ryegrass for many years. He told Continued on page 28

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