Grass Cover Crops Can Be Bedding!

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County

The value of cover crops as feed may never be more recognized than it has been over the past few years. However, with wheat straw for bedding bringing prices at auction that are similar to those of first cutting hay, perhaps grass covers such as cereal rye are just as valuable for bedding as they are for feed. That becomes even more so in a wet spring when the timely harvest of grass covers like cereal rye is challenged. Feed quality of cereal rye declines quickly as harvest is delayed. All that said, cereal rye becomes a very acceptable alternative to wheat straw for bedding that was discussed in more detail previously in the article, Grass Cover Crops; Bargain Feed or Bedding?. Below is the recent result of the practice described in that article.

Even when planted at reduced seeding rates that might be common for cover crops, cereal rye can result in acceptable yields of bedding material. This field was planted in mid-September after silage harvest and received 45 units of N shortly after breaking dormancy.

The cereal rye was killed with glyphosate at bloom, and allowed to stand for 10 days until a harvest window became available.

Glyphosate treated plants were mowed and allowed to lay ~7 days.

Combined yield of both round and square bales ~3800 pounds/acre.

“Straw” harvested on May 31, 2020