Early seeding dates and late harvest dates generally produce higher forage yields. However, the crude protein content is highly variable (from 9% to 21% DM) (Landau et al., 2005; Vonghia et al., 1992). In summer sown safflower stands, the crude protein content decreases with maturity and early harvest is thus advisable for good forage quality since it combines yield and protein content (Wichman et al., 2001).
Safflower can be compared with vetch-oat mixtures for green feed yield and nutritive value (Dajue et al., 1996; Vonghia et al., 1992; Göhl, 1982).
There are thornless cultivars, which are useful for feeding (Oyen et al., 2007).
Succulent safflower is grazed by livestock. In particular, sheep seem to relish safflower stubble after harvest (Göhl, 1982). Safflower stands remain green after other crops have matured (Landau et al., 2004; Landau et al., 2005).
Ewes have higher DM intakes on safflower than on mature barley stands (Landau et al., 2005). In Australia, grazed safflower sustained satisfactory growth in steers (French et al., 1988), and in Italy in sheep (Landau et al., 2005). It also improved fertility in ewes (Stanford et al., 2001) and did not affect milk yield (Landau et al., 2005).
Confined sheep fed green safflower ate it as readily as a mixture of vetch and oat (Vonghia et al., 1992).
Hay and straw
Hay of good quality can be made out of safflower and it is readily eaten by sheep despite the spines, which are thoroughly chewed (Göhl, 1982). Ewes and dairy cows fed on safflower were shown to have selective behaviour and the level of refusal (mainly stems) was 14% of the offered hay for cows (Landau et al., 2004; Stanford et al., 2001).
Ewes fed on safflower hay showed an enhanced feed conversion ratio and higher lambing rate (Stanford et al., 2001). Safflower hay fed to pregnant dairy cows exhibited very high effective degradability of DM and CP and did not alter body live weight, condition score or milk production (Landau et al., 2004).
Safflower straw is used similarly to cereal straws (Dajue et al., 1996).
Safflower silage may replace wheat and corn silage in dairy cow diets without affecting milk yield (30 kg/day), milk fat or milk lactose content (Landau et al., 2005).