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Heat Stressed, Poor-Quality Canola Could be Used as Forage For Livestock

The intense drought and heat wave plaguing the western U.S. has left poor quality canola stands in North Dakota that are unable to be harvested. However, this canola may provide an alternative forage option for livestock producers who are facing their own challenges due to the conditions.

Forage canola has a nutrient profile similar to alfalfa with crude protein of 12-16 percent, and total digestible energy of 55-60 percent (higher if the crop is cut in the early podded stage). But Miranda Meehan with the North Dakota State University Extension stated that canola forage can be used to feed livestock as long as some precautions are taken. It may take a bit for livestock to become accustomed to the taste, and there is a risk of bloat, scours, and elevated levels of sulfur and nitrates. To mitigate these risks, cattle should be acclimated over a period of time by blending canola with other feed at less than 50 percent of total feed intake.

Cattle may also refuse stemmy canola forage, so using a roller mower may be necessary, or ensiling could help while also reducing nitrate content.

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