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Islam discusses merits in new forage variety at farm and ranch days

Riverton – At the 29th Annual Fremont County Farm and Ranch Days, held in Riverton on Jan. 30, one of the last presentations of the day was on new forages being developed by the University of Wyoming (UW). 

Anowar Islam, UW Extension forage specialist, detailed his research on tall fescue, sainfoin and fenugreek for use as winter pasture, silage and hay crops.

In 2012, Wyoming agriculture supported 1.4 million head of cattle valued at $1.8 billion. Hay is by far the largest crop worth $307 million, five times ahead of sugar beets, but Wyoming ranks 17th in the nation for its alfalfa yield and 24th for all hay types. 

Islam is seeking to change the yield statistics through the use of grasses and legumes that are better adapted to Wyoming’s semi-arid climate. 

Alternative forages

“Tall fescue is very adaptable and has a wide range of uses,” Islam said. “It can be used both for forage and seed. Our plentiful sun and low humidity are great growing conditions for tall fescue.” 

“Also, it has less diseases and pests than alfalfa and is only damaged by severe weather events,” he commented.

The cool season perennial grass does have toxicity problems and works best in mixes. Tall fescue is not stressed by fall grazing and winters well.

“Depending on weather conditions,” Islam said. “Doing an early cutting of tall fescue seems to have very good seed and forage production. Tall fescue is very grazing tolerant, but it seems to have better seed production with haying.”

“Early cutting for seed production and fall grazing doesn’t seem to affect the next year’s growth,” Islam noted. “Also, tall fescue does not become sod bound. A 50/50 mix with tall fescue and an alfalfa legume are seeing 10 years of sustainability.”

Forage legumes improve soil health, decrease environmental pollution, have high forage yield and quality and increase pasture productivity and sustainability when mixed with grasses.

New varieties

A new alfalfa variety has been developed in Wyoming that is resistance to Brown Root Rot called Lander. It is the only Brown Root Rot resistant cultivar that has been bred in the United States. 

The legume, sainfoin, has been used for years in Canada and cannot be planted with alfalfa bacteria. Sainfoin generates its own nitrogen and does not need fertilizer. Sainfoin works well as a cover crop for barley, oat and wheat.

“The Shoshone variety was developed by UW,” Islam said. “Shoshone has better yield and winter hardiness than other sainfoin varieties. It performs well with grass mixes in dryland and irrigated conditions.”

“The newest sainfoin development is Delaney,” he added. “It is a multiple-cut sainfoin with high yield traits and produces a higher yield on the third cut than other strains.” 

While fenugreek may be best known as an herb, spice and vegetable used most commonly in Indian cuisine, Canada is pioneering the semi-arid crop as livestock forage.

“Fenugreek uses limited water and can be grown in low rainfall areas without irrigation,” Islam said. “It is a great multi-purpose crop, unfortunately there is no information available about how it would fair in Wyoming.”

“I have been testing fenugreek varieties in Laramie and at the Sustainable Agriculture and Research Center in Lingle,” Islam mentioned. “The last couple years have showed promise both in irrigated and dryland conditions.”

Melissa Hemken is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..