Winter cereals can fill the early-autumn feed gap that exists in perennial ryegrass-based systems, and are able to produce more feed over winter than most perennial pastures.
Winter cereals can also combine with summer crops as part of a double-crop rotation in a paddock renovation program. High potential for use of winter cereals was identified in low rainfall regions (450-600mm/year), where perennial ryegrass is not as persistent. Winter cereals may also be grown effectively on run-off or lease blocks then harvested and used on the milking platform.
Winter cereals can provide feed earlier than annual ryegrass (early autumn) because they are generally more adaptable to early sowing due to higher tolerance of dry conditions. Cereals are also better suited to single-cut silage making, whereas annual ryegrass requires multiple cuts or grazing to be fully utilised.
The nutritive value of winter cereals is similar to ryegrass in the tillering stage but declines during the later stages of growth. Maximum yields of cereals can only be obtained by single-cut silage making (with or without being grazed once during the early stages).
However, the losses from harvest to feeding out cereal silage can considerably increase the cost per kilogram of feed consumed by the cows compared to fully grazed annual ryegrass particularly for whole crop silage cut at the late milk-soft dough stage.
Winter cereals for silage (PDF, 1.5 MB)
This document outlines the advantages and disadvantages of winter cereals over annual ryegrass. Other topics include how winter cereals fit into your feed plan, sowing mixes, and silage making tips.