Sowing cover crops to overcome forage shortfalls

Wednesday 28.06.2023 , News

Cover crops could give forage stocks a well-needed boost this autumn and winter after difficult conditions earlier in the year.

The cold, wet spring meant a late or interrupted turnout and delayed the timing of first cut silage in many areas. The dry conditions which followed slowed grass growth affecting both grazing and second cut. And although many areas have since received much-needed rain, forage stocks are still low.

Cover crops can overcome the shortfall if used for autumn grazing cattle, lambs and flushing ewes. But whatever you choose, it must work with your existing cropping plan and not take land out of production at important times for your system.

Cover crops to support production and environmental goals

Brassicas offer fast-growing forage options. Crops such as Vollenda stubble turnips or Redstart hybrid brassica can be sown if grass stops growing due to lack of moisture as the summer progresses. Redstart also offers the potential of multiple grazings. More information about forage options for dry conditions can be found here.

Cover crops to overcome forage shortfalls

As well as forage value, cover crops bring environmental benefits and improve the performance of future crops, reducing the need for inputs. By capturing nitrogen and other nutrients from the soil, cover crops reduce the need for bought-in fertiliser and lessen your environmental impact.

Recharging soil with winter cover crops

Crops providing ground cover across the winter mitigate nutrient loss from soil and help suppress weeds as well as reducing the incidence of pests and diseases.

Some winter cover crops, such as radish, have deep taproots that benefit the soil by opening it up to allow air in and holding moisture in the ground. They are particularly good at breaking up hard soils and bringing up nutrients from lower down in the soil profile.

For more advice on cover crops, talk to our grass and forage experts at one of the shows they are attending in the next few months:

Date EventLocation
28-29/6/23GroundswellLannock Mannor Farm, Hertfordshire, SG4 7EE 
6/7/23 Down to Earth NorthPark House Farm, Torpenhow, Cumbria, CA7 1JZ 
14/9/23UK Dairy DayThe International Centre, Telford, Shropshire, TF3 4JH

Ask the forage cover crops experts

Alternatively, contact one of our experts here: