Producers across Montana are complimenting triticale for its versatility. Because the crop can be grazed in the fall and yet still mature enough to be hayed in the summer, it is proving to be a very cost-effective form of cattle nutrition in a time when cattle producers are constantly eyeing their bottom line and looking for ways to minimize costs.
“Triticale is very flexible, that is why we named this variety Flex 719,” stated Mitch Ereaux, forage specialist for Northern Seed.
TriCal Flex 719, Northern Seed’s newest variety of winter triticale is producing promising results for farmers and ranchers across the region. Flex 719 is similar to an earlier variety of winter triticale known as 718, but this newer variety has improved upon its winter hardiness, making it more ideal for Montana producers. Flex 719 is striking the balance between quality and quantity, outcompeting other varieties of cereal forages because it matures slightly faster.
“Typically, Flex 719 matures 10 days to two weeks earlier then Willow Creek winter wheat,” explained Ereaux.
In comparison to other winter crops, Flex 719 should be in the ground about two weeks earlier. According to Ereaux, anywhere between the third week in August and the first week in September is the target planting window. At that time, most cow work is in a lull, so ranchers are finding triticale to be a favorable crop simply because it is convenient to plant.
Highline rancher Michael Fred Ereaux started growing winter triticale a couple of years ago after his son, Mitch, convinced him of the crop’s benefits. Michael Fred has found that Flex 719 is extremely conducive to his operation. Before looking at winter forage options, Michael Fred explained he was always having to hunt down hay for his cattle. Now he has found a crop that is easy to manage and produces a quality feed that his cattle perform well on.
“We’re always looking for something that gives us an early start. We are so busy in the spring with calving that planting was hard. Being able to plant winter triticale in the fall has been really beneficial to our operation. Flex 719 is a tremendous forage crop for us,” explained Michael Fred.
Being planted earlier also gives Flex 719 a leg up in a couple of different areas. First off, producers can take advantage of the fall growth and open it up for grazing as long as the cows are not pulling the roots out and the soil is not too wet. Secondly, being planted in the fall allows Flex 719 ample opportunity to develop a stronger root system, which makes it more resistant to stress and therefore less likely to develop nitrate levels that are detrimental to cattle. The plant is also better equipped to take advantage of spring and fall moisture.
On average, Flex 719 offers 10-12 percent protein and like most cereal crops, it has more energy when compared to alfalfa. Ereaux explained there is a lot of different ways to approach Flex 719, but he has found it common for ranchers to graze stocker calves on the fall growth and then feed the hay to their cows over the winter.
At the upfront, Flex 719 can seem more expensive, costing about $30-40 an acre to seed, but on the backside, triticale is outshining other crops because it maximizes tonnage. Typically, the crop producers 3.5-4 tons of dry matter per acre. Hay barley in comparison produces 2-3 tons an acre.
Ereaux recommends producers interested in Flex 719 only plant the crop for the first couple of years, so they are not trying to juggle other crops, like alfalfa, that mature at about the same time.