On Farm Trial: Stein Farms Triticale Cover

Stein Farms is a multi-generational family-run dairy business in Le Roy, NY. The Stein family and all farm employees are committed to providing quality care for their land, dairy herd, and community. Tending to about 2,700 acres of feed for their herd on land bordering Oatka Creek in Genesee County, the Stein’s take their duty to maintain the land and water quality seriously, through modern technology and responsible environmental stewardship practices.

 Members of the Stein Family work together on their family farm, along with many full-time employees, some of whom have been working with the Stein's for up to 25 years. Photo sources: Daily Herd

Members of the Stein Family work together on their family farm, along with many full-time employees, some of whom have been working with the Stein's for up to 25 years. Photo sources: Daily Herd

Stein Farms began cover cropping with triticale about 25 years ago, mixing in other cover crops through the years. They currently broadcast seed using a 60’ air flow trailer with light discing, as well as using a no-till drill method, depending on the situation. They began using cover crops and reduced tillage methods primarily for the economic gain, including savings on fuel, labor, and equipment maintenance costs. Additionally, they benefit economically and environmentally from the boost in soil health, particularly from increased organic matter and improved water infiltration, allowing their crop to produce healthy, plentiful food for their dairy herd that can handle adverse weather conditions, such as extremes in precipitation. Through their cover cropping practices, the Stein’s have reduced their pesticide use on corn crop, thanks to triticales ability to suppress weed growth, creating further economic benefits for their farm.

The Stein’s main crops include a variety of feed crops, such as pure alfalfa, corn silage and grain, soybeans, and a tri-blend of forage barley, oats, and peas. Triticale serves both as the cover crop of choice, as well as high quality feed. Triticale is planted at a rate of 150lbs/acre over 50 acres to harvest for seed, to be used in a fall crop, and seed to grind for cow feed. An additional 175-200 acres are seeded at a rate of 210lb/acre for double crop forage,and the remaining acreage is seeded with triticale as much as possible at a rate of 70lbs/acre in the fall to serve as a cover crop through the winter.

 This field shows a clear distinction between the different triticale seeding rates on fields that were previously planted to corn.

This field shows a clear distinction between the different triticale seeding rates on fields that were previously planted to corn.

Triticale is used as Stein’s primary cover crop because of it’s dual purpose as a feed that provides quality nutrition for higher milk production, as well as it’s fast establishment and dense root establishment, which keeps their soil in place during harsh weather conditions. The Stein’s harvest their triticale at flag leaf stage, when the sugar content in the triticale runs 8 to 10%, and palatability is very high. The triticale is served fresh as it’s being chopped, and the Stein’s do not wait for it to ferment to start feeding. According to Dale Stein, dry matter intake when feeding triticale always goes up, due to great palatability. The Stein’s generally get 1,500 ton from the triticale, and feed it out through the summer so the bunker will be empty for corn silage in September. Their cows increase in milk production an average of 2 lbs milk per day while feeding triticale. “It’s great feed that is easy to grow and low cost,” says Stein.

In addition to the practical and economic benefits, the Stein’s use of cover cropping, reduced tillage, and the resulting improved soil health, have provided huge benefits for the wild spaces that are an important part of the family’s farm management plan. For example, since beginning use of cover cropping methods, the Stein’s have noticed that ponds that are adjacent to cover cropped fields have become completely algae-free.

Click here to watch Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture’s (CICCA) Climate Smart Farming’s video to learn more about Stein Farms.