Having witnessed an increase in the acreage of Forage Crops grown over the past number of years many farmers have committed to them. By growing forage crops farmers automatically benefit from mixed forage diets to help increase animal intakes, ensure optimum rumen stability and improve feed utilisation. As a result of this, livestock performance should increase - either by boosting milk production or through enhanced liveweight gains. I have also seen the benefit they offer as an out-wintering solution in expanding herds
What are the options
If you plan to make more of forage crops then one of the crucial decisions is to decide how long the desired crop will be in the ground. There is a range of fast growing Catch Crops which can often be ready for utilisation within 8-10 weeks from sowing. Crops in this category include forage rye, stubble turnips and forage rape. Full season crops include fodder beet, swedes and kale. These are often characterised as high yielding forages.
When to sow the various Forage Crops
The following grid is a really good reference point as it gives a summary of the times of year most suited to growing the relevant forage crops. As you will see this is the ideal time of year for sowing Kale and Forage Rape.
|Forage Rape||Kale||Stubble Turnips||Swedes||Forage Rye|
|Sowing period:||May – August||April – early July||April – June||April – June||September to October|
|Grazing period:||10-12 weeks after sowing||Autumn & Winter||8 weeks after sowing||Autumn & Winter||Winter & Spring|
|Sowing rate:||2.5kg/ac direct drill or 4.5kg/ac broadcast||1-2kg/ac direct drill or 3kg/ac broadcast||2kg/ac direct drill or 3kg/ac broadcast||1kg/ac direct drill or 2kg/ac broadcast||75kg/ac direct drill|
Each of the crops outlined above have specific fertiliser, pest and disease control requirements along with a wide variety choice and it is advisable to engage with a qualified agronomist. When it comes to feed-out time, different Forage Crops have different management requirements and it is very important to understand these requirements so as to benefit fully from a productivity perspective.
For any assistance on growing or feeding forage crops, contact the RED MILLS agronomy or nutrition team.