The Sharp Edge: Adding value with cereal rye

Farm management and cropping practices can be complimentary to a livestock operation. Making use of all the months of the year can be quite the challenge, but Chris McLaren, of Larenwood Farms near Drumbo, Ont., has managed to do just that by integrating a cereal rye into his rotation.

In this episode of The Sharp Edge, Greg Stewart, Maizex Seeds agronomist, chats with McLaren about the strengths and weaknesses of adding cereal rye to his livestock operation and how it’s been paying off for McLaren and his family farm.

Larenwood Farms has 100 dairy cows, about 250 animals, and 700 acres of land to grow feed. McLaren will admit, he prefers to spend his time in the barn, but from there he can coordinate what goes in the ground and when.

Leaving expensive land idle wasn’t an option for McLaren and his family, and so 10 or 15 years ago, they decided to give cereal rye a try. As soon as the corn silage is harvested, cereal rye is seeded with a no-till unit at about 100 pounds per acre. After it overwinters, they harvest it around the 20th of May to feed heifers. Immediately after that, soybeans are drilled in.

Planting those soybeans earlier to provide a head start for more yield may seem like an obvious choice to amp up the cash value for McLaren, but the real value for them is the quality of feed they get from the rye, and that they don’t have to rent any land to grow feed for their animals.

In the video, McLaren explains the yield differences, optimal (and not optimal conditions), and the payoffs of planting cereal rye; it works out to about three tonnes of wet rye per acre, which is three tonnes less feed they have to rely on from their corn silage or haylage ground. In general, cereal rye is a good fit all around for Larenwood Farms, but it’s not without its challenges.

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