This is the message from forage experts Germinal, who point to several options that can be adopted to suit varying situations.
“A number of brassica fodder crops can be drilled during the summer months to provide additional feed to any class of ruminant livestock through the later summer, autumn or even over winter,” says Germinal GB National Agricultural Sales Manager, Ben Wixey.
“These could be established as break crops between grass leys or could go in after harvesting cereals for whole crop or grain. The first step is to work out when additional grazing will best solve the farm’s forage shortage and grow the crop that will be most beneficial.”
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.
“Brassicas can fill grazing gaps, extend grazing or provide the basis for out–wintering,” says Mr Wixey, “and in doing so they will take the pressure off conserved forage stocks.
“When used between grass leys, brassicas also act as a very effective break crop, disrupting the life cycles of the pests that can do considerable damage to newly established leys. This could also be a factor in helping to boost future forage stocks.
“However, as with any crop establishment, it’s important to do the job right, by ensuring soil nutrition is adequate and a good seedbed is created before drilling.”
Germinal’s advice for the remaining months of this season is to drill brassica fodder crops in July or as early in August as possible, provided there is sufficient moisture.
“Delaying drilling by two weeks in August will halve fodder available later in the year,” says Mr Wixey, “whilst earlier establishment of hybrid brassica and grazing turnips will increase the likelihood of re–growths and multiple grazing.”