Forage rye: An option after maize?

Forage rye was around in the 1970s and 1980s, but the technology surrounding the crop has moved on over the last number of years, Glanbia’s David Leahy said at a recent fodder advice meeting.

“Forage rye is perhaps quite a good option after maize. The big advantage that this crop has its ideal sowing date – September or October.

“If we look at the maize crops currently, maize will be cut in three or four weeks and there’s a super opportunity to plant either Westerwolds or forage rye into good conditions, provided they come.

“It’s a great way of double cropping the ground and if you are struggling for forage, there’s no point and looking out at a stubble maize field for the winter when it could be producing forages to bridge that gap.”

Sowing method

Touching on sowing methods, the Glanbia technical tillage manager outlined that minimum tillage or the plough, till, sow method can be used to establish the crop.

“Where minimum tillage is advisable is where you actually plan to get a graze of the forage rye in the back end – and you can.

The big advantage of it isn’t actually as a feeding source for cattle; it’s actually more so to tiller up the crop. Forage rye is actually a cereal and like any cereal it needs to tiller.

“It can’t come into the spring too strong. If it does, it will not tiller and that’s where the grazing comes into it.”

David also said that ploughing may also be an option to establish the crop.

“You can imagine trying to get maize out in September/October if the weather is difficult. Minimum tillage is then out of the question. I wouldn’t be afraid to plough either, particularly if this crop could deliver 12 bales per acre in April.”

Yield potential

If a good crop of forage rye is established, David said: “It can deliver up to 12 bales per acre, which in dry matter terms equates to 2.25t; so it does actually compare quite favourably to short-term grass.

“Where it kind of falls down is the seed cost. It’s probably €80-90/ac more expensive than your short-term grass; but in terms of what it delivers in protein or even its UFL, it is quite strong.

“It’s not for everyone; but it may be an option instead of looking at maize stubble for the rest of the year or as a way of building up stocks.”

Watch David’s full presentation from a previous meeting below.