Before deciding to plant wheat, rye or triticale this fall for forage next spring, consider the strengths and weaknesses of each one, advises Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist.

“Rye is your best choice for the earliest pasture possible,” says Anderson. “It also may be the best match for double-cropping. Some varieties provide quite a bit of fall growth, too, if planted early. Rye also may be the most reliable when planted under stressful conditions.”

But rye turns stemmy and matures much earlier than wheat or triticale, losing feed value and palatability earlier in spring, he points out. Plus, wheat grain producers don’t want it contaminating fields next year.

“Triticale holds its feed value best into late spring,” he says. “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 triticale tends to be a bit more susceptible to winter injury, he warns.

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 that of triticale or rye.

“But it is top quality before stems develop, and it’s the clear choice if you want the double use as early pasture and for grain,” says Anderson.