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.
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:
|28-29/6/23||Groundswell||Lannock Mannor Farm, Hertfordshire, SG4 7EE|
|6/7/23||Down to Earth North||Park House Farm, Torpenhow, Cumbria, CA7 1JZ|
|14/9/23||UK Dairy Day||The International Centre, Telford, Shropshire, TF3 4JH|
Ask the forage cover crops experts
Alternatively, contact one of our experts here: