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Effects of crop maturity weather conditions and cutting height on yield harvesting losses and nutritive value of cereal legume mixtures grown for hay production

Effects of crop maturity weather conditions and cutting height on yield harvesting losses and nutritive value of cereal legume mixtures grown for hay production

Experimental Agriculture 23(4): 451-460

The introduction of forage or hay crops into fallow land represents a means of increasing feed supplies for small ruminants in north Africa and west Asia. Such fallows lie between zones planted with food crops and traditional grazing areas. Mixtures of vetch with barley, oats or triticale, and peas with barley, were cut at the 10% flowering, 100% flowering (100F) and full pod (FP) stages of the legume component. Effects of crop maturity, weather conditions and cutting height on yield, the chemical composition of the standing crop and re-growth were measured. Barley-vetch mixtures yielded 8147 kg dry matter ha-1 of standing crop at the FP stage in 1983 but only 2283 kg dry matter ha-1 in 1984 under drought conditions. Hay yields were 4377 and 1640 kg dry matter ha-1, respectively. The highest yielding mixture, grown in 1983, was oat-vetch which yielded 8670 kg dry matter ha-1 of standing crop and 4285 kg dry matter ha-1 of hay at the FP stage. Cutting at the 100F or FP stage maximized dry matter yield and minimized the risk of rainfall prolonging hay making. Rain caused slight damage to some hays cut at early stages of maturity. Voluntary intakes and digestibilities of field-cured hays were determined. The voluntary intakes of triticale-vetch hay at the FP stage and all barley-pea hays were low compared with other hays. Hays contained sufficient estimated metabolizable energy (ME) for use in sheep diets during pregnancy and middle or late lactation. ME values averaged 9.2 megajoules per kg dry matter in both 1983 and 1984.

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