Ryegrass and winter cereal grains are common “go to” forages in the South for overwintering beef herds and keeping dairy cows productive. These same forage options are used in other areas of the United States for spring and fall pastures.

At the University of Florida Feed Efficiency Facility located on the Northern Florida Research and Education Center, a two-year study was done to compare the forage quality of oat plus ryegrass, rye plus ryegrass, and triticale plus ryegrass by feeding growing beef animals greenchop of the three forage combinations.

Cattle were divided into three groups and fed the forage combinations for 28 days. The first 14 days were used as a period of adaptation, while during the final two weeks forage intake and in vivo digestibility measurements were taken.

The combination of either oats or triticale with ryegrass was superior in digestibility to the rye and ryegrass mixture (see figure below).

“The oat and triticale treatments both had TDN (total digestible nutrients) values at or above 80 percent,” said Nicolas DiLorenzo, University of Florida extension beef specialist. “These values confirm our research experience of getting average daily gains of 2.1 pounds over a 112-day period for cattle grazing oat or triticale mixtures.”

In central and northern Florida, DiLorenzo recommends seeding 85 pounds per acre of oats or triticale along with 15 pounds of ryegrass. “The earlier that planting can take place, the greater the return on investment from a longer grazing season,” DiLorenzo notes.

The University of Florida makes available a list of recommended cool-season forage varieties to maximize yield and forage quality.