Sheep and Goat Preference of Five Common Cover Crops
Robinson, Jaclyn Leighanne Joyce
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While the use of cover crops continues to gain widespread acceptance, producers frequently seek other means of deriving economic value from such crops. The alternative use of cover crops as livestock forage is of interest to many producers. In this study, we evaluated sheep and goat intake and apparent preference when provided free access to freshly harvested cereal rye (Secale cereal cv. “Elbon”), annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum), berseem clover (Trifolium alexandrinum cv. “Frosty”), daikon radish (Raphanus sativus subsp. longipinnatus), and Austrian winter pea (Pisum sativum) with advancing plant maturation (from March 5, 2020 to March 27, 2020). While there was significant interaction between sheep and goats in terms of dry matter consumption over time (trial date), in analyzing total dry matter consumption both animal species preferred ryegrass over daikon radish. However, total dry matter consumption of ryegrass was not significantly greater than that of the other three crops. Goats spent significantly more time at ryegrass, rye, and berseem clover treatments (troughs filled with fresh forage) while sheep spent more time on berseem clover and ryegrass. Austrian winter pea and daikon radish were the least preferred forages. Interestingly, animals spent significantly more time on ryegrass at the early feeding trial and significantly more on berseem clover at the last feeding trial, 22 days later. The two legumes used in this study were significantly higher in crude protein and lower in acid detergent fiber values than the non-legume species throughout the study, however, there was no significant correlation between measured forage quality parameters and animal preference. While there may be other factors that limit the use of these species as cover crops, our results indicate that ryegrass, berseem clover, and rye have good potential to serve alternatively as forage for small ruminants while daikon radish and Austrian winter pea would be less suitable for such use.