The main photograph shows the roots and tops being grazed in January this year while the smaller picture highlights the contractor lifting another part of the crop on 2nd February - during the recent spell of wintery weather!
Those livestock farmers looking for a crop which can deliver a very big yield of palatable fodder have several choices – maize is obviously a prime candidate but there are also some other options. Without doubt one of the most exciting of these is fodder beet - a crop which has been undergoing something of a revival recently.
This revival of interest is perhaps not surprising when you consider exactly what the crop has to offer. Certainly, the yield potential is nothing short of tremendous – up to 90 tonnes/ha of fresh weight yields with a DM of between 12-19%. In addition the crop has a D value of 78%, an ME of around 13 MJ/kg DM and anybody who has watched livestock eating fodder beet will vouch for the crops superb palatability!
Traditionally, it has been dairy farmers in the UK who have fully exploited the value of fodder beet and used it to improve milk yields while at the same time reducing their reliance on cereals in the diet. Of course those fattening beef animals can also grow the crop with a view to making the most of the financial value of home-grown feed. Although fodder beet can be fed whole it is worth noting that chopped roots should provide an even better liveweight gain.
Whilst it is true that most livestock farmers associate fodder beet with dairy or beef cattle it is a fact that this very high yielding crop is also ideal for many sheep producers. Richard Ward, who fattens around 1200 lambs a year at Rauceby Estates near Sleaford, provides an excellent example of how the value of the crop can be maximised.
Although Richard grows the traditional sheep feeds - such as stubble turnips and kale – he became interested in fodder beet when he realised how flexible the crop was. His fields of Robbos (the variety was previously called Maestro) are split into distinct sections. Initially, a local contractor comes in with a powerful sugar beet harvester to lift the roots in one area – these are then clamped on the farm for feeding later in the winter. The machine ‘tops’ the roots during the lifting process – and then after the harvesting operation has been completed the sheep are let loose of the stubble to clear up the tops.
Once they have eaten the tops the animals move into another section of the field which is not earmarked for lifting and where they have access to both the roots and tops. It is, of course, important to control the grazing with an electric fence to ensure that wastage is kept to the minimum.
Richard has found the Robbos a top class feed. He believes the yield from his current crop is between 35-40 tonnes/acre – which is certainly helping him to ‘beet’ the cost of purchased feed on his farm!
If you would like more details on fodder beet – including the varieties available and advice on how to grow the crop successfully – then e-mail Limagrain today on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will arrange for this information to be sent to you.