Hybrid Rye

Hybrid rye is a new cereal crop to come under the microscope for forage production, but can it deliver livestock performance as well as field bulk?

Last week I wrote about catch crops and issues relating to the breeding of a number of species that we are less familiar with and the active choices needed for variety selection. This week I focus on a different crop that is new to our shores – hybrid rye.

A few weeks ago I went to see a commercial crop of hybrid rye which is being grown in Co Waterford by a dairy farmer, Colin Hartley. This crop of Magnifico was bred by KWS Seeds, which has continued with a breeding programme focused on energy crop production.
Technically, this new hybrid rye was bred for bulk for the production of biogas in anaerobic digestion plants in Britain rather than forage. However, ruminant customers there also became interested in the crop due to its yield and relative energy values. And, following these experiences, this Irish crop was destined for wholecrop silage.

I met with Colin when I visited the crop on 20 July, just before it was harvested. He takes a good bit of rented land, which he uses to grow a lot of his farm feeds. These normally include fodder beet and maize, but he still had to buy in straw. Colin finds the fodder beet very dependable, but maize is more variable on this land due to its exposure to the sea breeze. Another issue with maize, for him, is that it comes off relatively late, which prevents planting of a fodder crop on the same land over winter.