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Consider adding kale to the grazing menu

Graeme Finn says he believes kale, also known as forage rape, is a viable feed option for grazing cattle, and something he can snack on as he is walking across the pasture.

Finn, who ranches in south-central Alberta just north of Calgary, seeded about seven acres of forage rape this year. It was part of a demonstration trial organized through the Foothills Forage and Grazing Association. They are always looking to try new ideas.

What Finn seeded in the corner of a 130-acre field of an oats/barley blend that will be used for swath grazing later this year, is technically called forage brassica, which is a cross between a turnip and kale, generally referred to as rape.

“It is a crop that is commonly grown in New Zealand and is used for both grazing and also for swath grazing,” says Finn. “I see it as having a really good fit for someone who is short of pasture — it appears to be a very good alternative to seeding an annual cereal crop. And it could also be great if someone is looking for a high-protein crop to put weight on yearlings, or even for a dairy operation looking for high-protein pasture.”

Samples collected from the forage rape stand in September had about 16 per cent protein compared to the nearby stand of oats/barley blend with 9.6 per cent protein. Finn estimated the cost of establishing the stand at about $25 per acre for the seed and another $21 per acre for the seeding operation.

He had swathed the forage rape in September and there had been good regrowth by mid-October. It even withstood some fairly heavy frosts, and was still green and vibrant on a -5 C morning after the first snowfall of the season.

For the demo plot, Finn seeded a blend of two pounds of Winfred forage rape with seven pounds of Crusader fall ryegrass, with seed available through Pickseed. If he was growing it again, he says he would probably increase the amount of forage rape seed in the blend. With a straight stand of either crop the recommended seeding rate is four pounds of the forage rape seed and 15 pounds of the annual ryegrass.

The forage rape/ryegrass blend was direct-seeded into stubble June 11, with about 70 pounds of broadcast-applied nitrogen applied a few weeks after seeding.

“It could have been grazed about 50 days after seeding,” says Finn. “In this case we didn’t put cattle on it, but swathed it in September to simulate grazing. Swath grazing is an option, or it could just be used as a fast-growing forage crop that is grazed once earlier in the season and then again later in the fall.”

While there were good growing conditions in the Airdrie/Crossfield area this past summer, Finn says forage kale is also quite drought tolerant.

The forage rape demonstration plot will be included in Finn’s usual swath grazing program later this fall. The 130 acres of oats/barley blend were also swathed in September. The field will be divided into 20-acre paddocks, and grazed by about 200 head of dry cows over winter.

“I have used the swath grazing for a number of years, and we rarely have to start a tractor in winter to do any feeding,” says Finn. From summer pasture the cow herd moves onto the swath grazing in November, which most years carries them through until February or March.

“The cows do very well on the oat/barley swaths but I know when we turn them into this part of the field that forage rape will be the first thing they lick up,” says Finn. “It is a sweet-tasting crop that is very palatable — it will be the first to go.”


While long-time Alberta purebred Angus breeder Christoph Weder has moved his ranch headquarters to Hudson Hope, B.C., he says he still has his roots in Alberta. Weder says Spirit View Ranch still has its operation at Rycroft, Alberta as well and they are still in purebred cattle business. Weder also heads up Heritage Angus Beef, which markets naturally raised Angus beef.


Morris Schwartz is on his deathbed, knows the end is near, and is with his nurse, his wife, his daughter and two sons.

“So”, he says to them:

“Bernie, I want you to take the Beverly Hills houses.”

“Sybil, take the apartments over in Los Angeles Plaza.”

“Morris Jr., I want you to take the offices over in City Centre.”

“Sarah, my dear wife, please take all the residential buildings downtown.”

The nurse is just blown away by all this, and as Morris slips away, she says, “Mrs. Schwartz, your husband must have been such a hard-working man to have accumulated all this property.”

Sarah replies, “Property? The schmuck has a paper route!”


The Manitoba Forage & Grassland Association (MFGA) says it’s pleased with the new AgriInsurance forage package for Manitoba forage producers.

MFGA has been working with partners and Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) for a number of years in the reformation of a forage and pasture package that would address producer needs including coverage for the high cost of production in dairy and cash hay, says Jim Lintott, MFGA president.

The program includes: select hay insurance, basic hay insurance, which both include a hay disaster benefit; a harvest flood option; enhanced quality options (for producers with alfalfa hay); and a flood restoration benefit..

Forage and grassland producers can learn more about the improved forage insurance package by contacting their local MASC office or visiting their direct program link at

The deadline to sign-up is March 31, 2014.


The Canadian Forage and Grassland Association is holding its annual conference and general meeting at the Pomeroy Inn on the Olds College Campus, Olds, Alta., Dec. 10 and 11.

The event kicks off with an optional tour Dec. 9 of area grazing, feeding and forage-processing operations. During the conference there will be several presentations: Laura Rance, editor of the Manitoba Co-operator is speaking on the future of forages in a fabricated world; Pascal Badiou with Ducks Unlimited is speaking about the importance of grasslands and wetlands on the Prairies and there will be panel discussions on forage research and forage opportunities and much more. For more information visit †

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.



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