Should more farmers use forage crops as a winter feed?
Forage crops are valuable and farmers should consider using more of them as a winter feed, according to DLF Seeds Ireland’s Damian McAllister.
Speaking at a recent DLF Seeds Ireland open day in Co. Waterford, the company’s Business Manager said that they are more then fodder crops.
He said that these crops have the potential to serve a number of functions on farm, but they are particularly useful as a winter feed or as a break crop prior to reseeding.
McAllister said that forage crops such as forage rape and kale are able to yield 4t and 8t of Dry Matter per acre respectively.
And, the utilisation of these crops can be quite high if they are they are managed correctly.
He said that up towards 80% of the crop can be used by grazing livestock when a strip fence is used, but this falls to 40% when animals are allowed to graze the crops freely.
However, he said that farmers intending on feeding forage crops to their livestock need to introduce them slowly, as too quick of an introduction can lead to a shock to the animal’s digestive system.
McAllister also said that forage crops can be used as a break crop between two grass leys and this can have benefits in terms of pest control.
He suggested that the use forage crops has the potential to reduce the presence of Leather Jackets in reseeded grass swards the following spring.
Forage crops repel the Crane Fly, he said and as a result the resulting Leather Jackets are not in the soil when the new reseed is sown.
This will produce additional cheap feed on the farm over the winter months, will also reducing the potential damage Leather Jackets could do to newly established grass swards.
Sowing forage crops
The DLF Seeds Ireland representative said that forage rape has the ability to produce 4t of dry matter per acre and it can be sown from June on.
He said that the variety Interval is the highest selling forage rape variety in Ireland and it accounts for over 90% of all seed sales.
Forage rape can also be used between winter and spring cereal crops as it can provide valuable winter feed when the ground would otherwise be lying fallow.
Forage Kale and Rape varieties:
McAllister said that kale has the ability to grow at least 8t of dry matter per acre, but it has to sown relatively early in the year to ensure the best results.
He said that the ideal time to sow kale is during the month of June and as the year progresses, the yield production of the crop drops.
He also said that the crop requires fertile soil, with research from Teagasc showing that a pH of 6.5 is ideal for the production of both kale and Rape crops.