Forage First Guide      I      Summer Select Guide

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Winter Wheat

Winter Wheat cover crop seed has good potential for forage and is usually higher in quality than rye, triticale and oats, but not barley

Winter Wheat cover crop seed is a great cover or cash crop for catching excess nutrients (and nitrogen) leftover from other cropping systems.




Non-Forage Benefits:
1 = Poor; 5 = Excellent

Compaction Alleviation: 3
Weed Suppression: 4
Biomass Production: 4
Erosion Control: 5
Disease/Pest Control: 3
Pollinator/Beneficials: 1
P & K Cycling: 4
Ease of Establishment: 4

Nitrogen Fixer/Scavenger: Scavenger

Nutritional Value:
Values Vary Greatly Depending on Maturity

Crude Protein: 9 (Hay); 12 (Silage)
NEL¹ Mcal/lb.: .57 (Hay); .59 (Silage)
ADF%²: 38 (Hay); 37 (Silage)
NDF%³: 66 (Hay); 62 (Silage)
TDN: 59
DM Tons/Acre: 2-3
Days to First Harvest: Spring
Days to Next Harvest: –

¹- Net Energy for Lactation = Energy available after subtracting digestive and metabolic losses
²- Acid Detergent Fiber = Low values mean more digestible
³- Neutral Detergent Fiber = Low values mean cows can eat more

Ranking (Good, Better, Best):
Graze: Better (Hay); NA (Silage)
Baleage: Best (Hay); Good (Silage)
Chop: Good (Hay); Best (Silage)




Planting Time:

Seeding Rate:
Mono (lbs./acre): 30-50
Mix (lbs./acre): 20-40
Forage (lbs./acre): 80-120

Seeding Info:
Carbon/Nitrogen Ratio (C:N): Vegetative- 20:1 (Hay); Straw- 80:1 (Silage)
Seeding Depth (in./with drill): 3/4-1
Seeds/lb.: 11-12,000
Bulk Density (lbs./ft.³): 48 (Hay); – (Silage)
Aerial Application Rate: 20-60
Germination Soil Temp.: 38 F
USDA Hardiness Zone: 3
Days to Emergence: 6-10





    • Wheat has good potential for forage and is usually higher in quality than rye, triticale and oats but not barley. However, wheat usually produces more dry matter than barley.

Removal Rates

    • Equivalent 60 bushel yield crop, 80-100# N, 40# P, 60-70# K

Fertilizer removal rates need to be considered as well. When utilizing cover crops as forage, it’s critical to consider the nutrients being removed along with the biomass. These fertilizer levels will need to be added to ensure maximum nutrient availability for the following cash crop.

Hay Production
Hay yields often average between 2-4 tons/acre. Moisture content should be between 15-20% moisture. Hay quality is more maturity-dependent at harvest than is silage.

The most efficient time to harvest small grain cereals for hay is at early-milk stage. This allows for the greatest compromise between forage yield and quality (quality would be greatest at the late-boot stage). To help speed up drying, a crimper is recommended when harvesting in the late-boot stage

Silage Production
Wheat, barley, oat and triticale silage yields are similar, 4-7 tons/acre of 35% dry matter forage in the boot stage and closer to 6-10 tons/acre when harvested in the late-boot stage. Small grains should be ensiled at between 62–68% moisture. Chop length should be set finer than when harvesting corn or forage sorghum. (Kansas State University)

  • An excellent weed suppressor
  • Offers the option to frost seed clovers and/or other legumes
  • Winter Wheat cover crop seed has good potential for forage and is usually higher in quality than rye, triticale and oats, but not barley
  • Best use: Fall and spring pasture, silage (boot-dough stage) and hay (boot-milk stage)