Animal Science, Department of


First Advisor

Mary E. Drewnoski

Second Advisor

Daren D. Redfearn

Third Advisor

Jim C. MacDonald

Date of this Version

Spring 5-5-2023

Document Type



Sartin, A.S. 2023. Winter hardy small cereals for grazing or silage in Eastern Nebraska. M.S. Thesis. Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln.


A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Animal Science, Under the Supervision of Professor Mary E. Drewnoski. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2023

Copyright © 2023 Abigail M. Sartin


Two, 3-year studies were conducted to evaluate the value of cereal rye, winter wheat, and winter triticale as forage sources for either for silage or early spring grazing. For silage, the objective was to evaluate species and maturity effects on dry matter yield, nutritive value, and fermentation of small cereal silage. There are no major differences between wheat, rye, or triticale in terms of the relative timing of each species reached each maturity stage. There are no differences among species in dry matter (DM) yield, except for wheat which tends to decline at soft dough due to senescence of the lower leaves. Rye had greater CP (1-2%) than the other species. All species were high in protein at boot stage ~17% CP and declined to ~9% CP by soft dough. The energy content measured as digestible organic matter (DOM) declined as the plants matured. Differences in DOM among species were minor, although rye appeared to have the best combination of yield, DOM and CP. Harvesting rye at anthesis allowed for a high DOM silage at 58% and moderate yield while harvesting at soft dough maximizes DOM yield, but results in a lower DOM silage at 49%. The objective for grazing was to evaluate the gains of growing steers grazing these small cereals in early spring, timing of grazing initiation, biomass availability and carrying capacity. Overall, there were few differences among the small cereal species. On average, small cereal grazing results in ADG of 1.4 kg/d over a 22 d grazing period. The carrying capacity of small cereals across 3 years ranged from 2.4-5.1 AUM/ha and all species were ready for turn out at similar times, except for year 1 where rye was ready earlier than wheat and triticale. However, during a cold spring (year 2), cereal rye appeared to have an advantage with increased cattle average daily gain (ADG), which was likely driven by increased biomass availability. Overall, there appears to be minor and inconsistent differences among species as a forage resource for silage production and early spring grazing.

Advisor: Mary Drewnoski