Perennial forages include a diverse range of grasses and legumes that are utilized by livestock producers for a wide variety of purposes - from hay and greenfeed to summer pasture to winter grazing through stockpiled forage. They make up one of the largest sources of livestock feed on the prairies and the wide diversity in growth characteristics between species makes them ideal for many purposes. Some types have an increased tolerance to grazing (Creeping Red Fescue, Orchardgrass, Kura Clover) while others are best utilized for hay or greenfeed as they are more susceptible to defoliation by livestock (Sainfoin, Smooth bromegrass).
Perennial forages can help improve soil and water quality and help to reduce weed pressure. When perennial legumes are utilized as part of a crop rotation, fertilizer costs could be reduced through increased available nitrogen to subsequent crops through nitrogen fixation.
Higher Legume Pasture Project
Sainfoin contains condensed tannins which are a compound in the plant that attaches themselves to the bloat-inducing proteins in alfalfa, thus helping to eliminate the potential for bloat. The new sainfoin variety, AC Mountainview, that has been developed is proving to be competitive in forage stands and has higher regrowth potential than previous varieties, allowing it to regrow at the same rate as alfalfa. Livestock producers could now use AC Mountainview as a natural bloat control and graze higher legume pastures confidently. The goal of this project is to provide farmers with the knowledge necessary to establish a high legume pasture (60+ legumes) and then graze that pasture effectively the year after establishment. High legume pastures have a greater capacity to withstand drought conditions and can be extremely productive, meaning producers could keep livestock on pasture for longer while maintaining good gains.
Perennial Forage Project
Historically, there has been a gap in perennial forage production knowledge in Alberta and, in particular, regionally specific variety information. There is significant variation in Alberta's ecoregions and varieties developed and testing in one location or region will likely not perform the same in another region. To help bridge this gap in perennial forage information, the perennial forage trial was developed to test cultivars that have been recently developed but have had limited regional evaluation to provide producers with valuable, region specific data. The province wide project data will be available to all producers in Alberta.
Sainfoin: bloat-safe legume
It is well known that inclusion of legume crops improves the protein content and digestibility of your forage stand resulting in improved overall quality of livestock feed whether utilized as hay, silage or pasture. The most commonly utilized legume crop in Western Canada is alfalfa due to its wide adaptability and high yield. However, the use of alfalfa in pastures for grazing cattle raises concerns as a result of increased risk of bloat. To help minimize this risk, there are multiple alternative legume varieties that are considered bloat-safe – one of which is sainfoin.
Legume and Grass Variety Trials
Developed in 1994, the Western Forage Variety Testing System is a way to coordinate the research and testing required for registration of forage cultivars across Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Research into new varieties is continual and these trials aim to determine the viability of new forages to production across the Prairies. LARA is currently conducting trials on Alfalfa, Meadow Bromegrass, Hybrid Bromegrass, Timothy, Orchardgrass and Tall Fescue.
Kura Clover Establishment
Kura clover is a long-term perennial clover from the Caucasian mountain region of Russia, the Crimea, Ukraine, eastern Turkey and northern Iran. Sometimes called the 20 year clover it has a large tap root and rhizome system that can reach over 1 meter in diameter within two years. These roots allow Kura to resist drought, short-term flooding, frost, grazing, etc.