AMES, Iowa ― Cereal rye is a common feed used in cow-calf production, extending the grazing season, providing early spring forage or as an emergency area for spring calving during inclement weather.
Understanding how to grow cereal rye and best use the crop is the focus of a new Iowa State University Extension and Outreach publication titled “Grazing Opportunities with Cereal Rye” (IBC 0128). The publication is written by Beth Doran, beef specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach.
“Growing and using cereal rye is not without its challenges, but it has become the first choice of cover crops to graze because it grows rapidly and tolerates colder temperatures,” Doran said.
The publication provides best management practices for producers to use when grazing cereal rye with stocker cattle. Nine steps are listed for producers to think about and follow in order to grow cereal rye of the highest quality.
Included in the publication are a pair of tables that show research on both the yield and nutrient density of cereal rye.
“A high level of management is involved in successfully growing and grazing cover crops,” Doran said. “Whether it is cereal rye or another cover crop, cattle producers need to consider five things – the crop grown previous to the cover crop, the kind of cover crop to be grown, the crop that will be grown after the cover crop is terminated, the characteristics of the grazing animal and weather.”
Growing cereal rye can also provide added value for crop producers through selling excess feed, leasing crop acres to cattle producers to graze or temporarily grazing stocker cattle themselves.
“Leaving out the value of cereal rye as a feedstuff for livestock, it benefits a crop producer,” Doran said. “Cover crops improve soil health, nutrient retention and aid in weed control.”