Rape/kale hybrid, kale or beet: Which is the best fodder crop for me?

Over the last number of years, particularly after last year’s drought, the number of farmers growing fodder crops has increased.

Fodder crops have also become a popular option for dairy farmers who have increased cow numbers but have yet to invest in new housing facilities.

Deciding that you want to grow a fodder crop can be easy, but deciding which one to sow can be difficult.

For this reason, AgriLand has provided some information on beet, kale and Redstart to make the decision that bit easier.

Beet

Fodder beet is a high-energy feed and is commonly grown on dairy farms to extend the grazing season in the autumn and to support fodder reserves in the winter and/or spring.

Unfortunately, it is too late in the year to grow fodder beet. Beet is usually sown in late-April or early to mid-May.

However, harvested beet can still be purchased if needed. If you decide to purchase beet it should be introduced to the herd gradually and should not be overfed to cows. It also should be preferably fed washed, free from clay.

Non-washed beet can be purchased for between €30/t and €40/t. For washed and loaded beet, it can cost between €40/t and €50/t.

Harvested beet can be stored outdoors in clamps, but should be covered if there is a risk of frost.

Kale

Now is the ideal time to be sowing kale, as it takes approximately 150 days to reach maturity. If sown after July 1, this is too late for kale.

Kale is highly digestible and is commonly grazed by farmers – throughout the winter – to support fodder reserves.

  • Yield (t DM/ha) – 10-12;
  • Dry matter (DM%) – 14-16;
  • Crude protein (CP%) – 16-18;
  • Metabolisable energy (MJ/kg DM) – 12.5-13.5;
  • UFL value (kg DM) – 1.05.

To sow, kale costs – on average – approximately €285/ac (excluding VAT) and costs €124/t of dry matter utilised (with no land cost in included).

Also Read: How can I get the best results from a crop of kale this year?

Rape/kale hybrid

Another option is a hybrid between rape and kale. A popular variety sown last year was Redstart. It is known for its rapid and vigorous growth habit and can be sown later than kale – around mid-June to mid-August.

If sown early it can be grazed more than once or harvested first and then grazed.

  • Yield (t DM/ha) – 6-8;
  • Dry matter (DM%) – 12-14;
  • Crude protein (CP%) – 18-20;
  • Metabolisable energy (MJ/kg DM) – 10-11;
  • UFL (kg DM) – 1.1.

The one downfall with Redstart is that it cannot be sown in a successive rotation due to club root.

Redstart is cheaper to sow than kale due to a lower seed cost, less fertiliser needed and less spray needed.

It costs – on average – approximately €186/ac (excluding VAT) and costs €121/t DM utilised (with no land cost included).

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