Due to a combination of early livestock housing last autumn and the late spring this year, many farms find they have low silage and forage stocks, and limited grazing. Limagrains Martin Titley says: Forage crops like kale, swede and stubble turnip can provide an ideal back-up plan providing excellent yields and feed quality.
Martin explains: Under normal circumstances the first cut of silage would be ready in the next fortnight but the weather will cause delays. Forage crops can act as insurance, providing extra keep throughout the autumn and winter period, and are a fantastic way of restoring home-grown supplies. Many farmers may find these crops a valuable option and a way to prevent any feed shortages.
Forage crops are suitable for most farming systems. Kale, for example, is a flexible crop to grow and can be sown from mid-May to early-July. If forage supplies are low around August to September then it can be grazed successfully in early autumn, but alternatively can be left from October to January. The benefit of kale is that it doesnt lose any palatability or digestibility if left for longer, and offers great flexibility of use. Growing a variety such as Grampian which is suitable for both sheep and cattle and has a high D-value is a good option.
Martin adds: Swede is another option which is often forgotten. It can be sown after first cut silage and is well suited for finishing lambs or maintaining ewes. Swede also provides a good alternative for those who missed the chance to plant fodder beet, as it can also be lifted and clamped for feeding at a later date. Its a big high-energy feeding crop and the next generation of UK-bred swede varieties like Gowrie can provide dry matter yields of 11.5t/ha. Gowrie also has resistance to powdery mildew and club root.
Where flea beetles are a risk, both kale and swede varieties are available with Cruiser seed treatment to offer protection and aid establishment.
Mr Titley explains: Another option is stubble turnips, a hybrid variety like Tyfon is ideal for providing fresh forage to dairy cattle in the summer months. Its a very green, leafy crop with a high palatability. As Tyfon produces more leaf than root it provides a higher protein content overall than typical stubble turnip varieties. It can be sown from May through to August and only takes 12-14 weeks from sowing until ready for grazing. For some early sown crops, the re-growth potential of the leaf can enable at least two grazings to be made.
Dry Matter Yield
Hybrid Turnip Tyfon
Source: Limagrain UK trials & James Hutton Institute 1990-2010