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Salvage Canola Crops Can Make Good Cattle Feed

With dry conditions in most of the province, late seeded crops, and hailstorms, some canola crops have value as salvage and fed to cattle.

Photo credit: Shiana Younger

Canola plants that are in full bloom to early pod stage can be a high-quality feed. The same nutritional value as a good quality first cut mixed alfalfa – grass hay. The earlier the crop is cut, the higher the quality. As the plants mature, quality is reduced but can be used as filler in cattle rations. Cattle readily eat canola greenfeed or silage. If the animals have not experienced this feed type previously, it may take two or three days for them to readily consume this product. Depending on quality, canola greenfeed or silage could possibly make up 100% of the daily ration. These crops and those damaged by hail require a feed test to establish quality before any recommendations can be made.

There are a couple additional concerns that need to be addressed when feeding canola silage or greenfeed compared to using a cereal crop as cattle feed.

First: If the crops have been fertilized to produce a high yielding crop; nitrates and sulfur content could be a concern. Nitrate more so in the dry conditions because the crop did not develop sufficiently to use up the applied fertilizer. Sulfur could be a concern in both situations. High sulfur content above 0.55% in a high forage ration or 0.4% in a feedlot type ration can potentially cause polio. It is recommended that a representative sample be sent in for analysis (including nitrate and sulfur) to establish feed quality.

Second: Canola, being an oil seed crop, can contain up to 42% oil by seed weight when fully mature. Two weeks after full flower, oil starts to develop in the immature seed. As the plant matures, the oil content continually increases. The majority of oil is developed from 35 to 55 days after full flower. Rations should contain less than 7% total fat or oil because rumen function is impaired above this level.

Plants drop leaves as they mature. Leaves and flowers contain a large percentage of the protein and energy. Bacteria that are involved with the ensiling process obtain energy from soluble sugars in the leaves. If the leaves have dropped, less energy is available, and the ensiling process could take one to two weeks longer compared to a crop that supplies adequate sugars.

Work with various industry professionals including private consultants, feed company nutritionists or government specialists to develop a feeding program for the different types of animals that can utilize canola greenfeed or silage.

For more information, contact Barry at 403-741-6032 or


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