Golden German millet seems a good swath-grazing alternative to barley and oats. It's also goose-resistant.

“If you're tired of predation on your barley swaths, grow millet instead,” says Bart Lardner, Western Beef Development Centre (WBDC) research scientist, Lanigan, Saskatchewan. “Waterfowl don't like millet.”

Several foxtail millets are well-adapted for the Great Plains and prairies. Golden German is grown in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Colorado and Montana and is doing well in Saskatchewan and Manitoba testing programs.

This warm-season annual produces most of its growth in July and August. It's adapted to short periods of drought, but does less well in cool, wet conditions and has a shallow root system and poor tolerance for salinity.

Swathed, it retains feed quality longer than barley. Waxy leaves and stems preserve moisture and quality, especially in damp conditions.

Yield, nutrition, palatability and animal performance on millet generally equal or exceed those of swath-grazed cool-season crops in central Saskatchewan, says Lardner.

The WBDC seeded five acres of the millet May 30, 2005. After a warm growing season, the crop was swathed Aug. 10 at the very early dough stage. Swaths were restricted-grazed by 108 mature cows from Oct 12 to 26.

Millet produced 3.7 tons/acre of 12%-crude protein, 63%-TDN forage. Cow gains averaged 27 lbs. Cost per acre was $159 Canadian. Daily cost per cow was 45¢, or about 23¢/lb.

In a 30-day, 2003 trial, 185 calves were “fence-line” weaned. They could see the mother cows and had restricted access to swathed millet. Two trainer cows taught them to graze swaths. “The calves did quite well,” he says.

But it wasn't always rosy. Rain, snow and very cold weather ended a two-month feeding trial on Dec. 15, 2006. Trainer cows pawed through to find fresh feed, but calves needed help. “Our millet froze quite solid in the swath,” Lardner says. “Palatability was limited. It was like eating frozen celery. With barley, we had no trouble at all. There was less freezing and fewer palatability issues.”

Pasture managers compensated by allocating more feeding area in the swaths. “We had to be a little more friendly with calves — move the wire a little more often to give them a little higher-quality feed.”

Still, golden German millet looks to be a good prospect.

“Grow one field each of millet and barley,” Lardner suggests. “If it's not a good season for one, you'll probably have a good season for the other.”