Brassica fodder crops could provide a much-needed boost to feed stocks as livestock farmers battle forage shortages due to the widespread drought conditions.
This is the message from forage experts Germinal, who point to several options that can be adopted to suit varying situations.
“Brassica fodder crops can play a valuable role in overcoming grass shortages as they provide a high energy and cost-effective forage supply for livestock during the late summer, autumn or winter” says Germinal NI general manager, David Little.
“While brassica fodder crops are generally utilised for filling a forage gap, they can also act as an effective break crop between grass leys.
“They play a significant role in pest management as they break the life cycle of pests that cause serious losses in newly established leys.
“As a result, this could potentially lead to an increase in future forage stocks,” stated Mr Little.
The quickest source of feed could come from a grazing turnip such as Appin, which can take as little as six weeks to produce a leafy forage crop. Stubble turnips are another option, with varieties like Vollenda producing a higher energy bulb within 12-14 weeks.
Hybrid brassicas, such as Redstart or Swift, will take 10-12 weeks before a crop is ready to graze, but offer yields of as much as 6tDM/ha and – if drilled early enough – could provide multiple grazings.
These hybrid brassicas are also cold tolerant, so can provide forage for out-wintering.
Provided there is sufficient moisture, Germinal’s advice for the remaining months of this season is to drill brassica fodder crops in July or as early August to allow for re-growths and multiple grazing.
“To achieve good establishment, it is important to ensure that soil nutrition is adequate and a good seedbed is created before drilling,” concluded Mr Little.