Good planning key to success with fodder beet
Feeding fodder beet to R2 heifers and R2 steers on their sheep and beef property, Philip and Alexander Holt of Napier are into their second season using this crop and are rapt with the results.
The versatility of fodder beet makes it an attractive forage option in many farming systems throughout New Zealand. Predominantly a high yielding feed for wintering dairy cows, farmers such as Philip and Alexander are now successfully using beet to put liveweight gain onto beef cattle. Fodder beet can also play a role in holding body condition of dairy cows on the shoulders of the milking season, and has been used effectively within the beef, sheep, goat and deer industries.
Philip and Alexander feed R2 home breed Angus steers on an 8 ha beet crop and have had good results. Focusing on getting the inputs right for their crop, Philip strongly advocates for making a plan and getting the timings right to get a quality crop. “Don’t cut corners, follow your plan well and focus on using exactly what is required to achieve your targets,” explains Philip.
It all starts with a well prepared and consolidated seedbed. If you can get this right and obtain an even plant establishment, weed control becomes much easier when the beet is at a similar growth stage. Precision sowing their preferred Agricom variety fodder beet at 50 cm row spacing in October 2016, Philip and Alexander have found the crop to have good tolerance in the hot and windy January and February conditions. Yielding approximately 27 T in mid to late May this year, these conditions have been a positive for the pair.
The R2s are all killed off fodder beet and some lines of Angus steers achieved growth rates of above 1.8 kg/head/day last season. Philip and Alexander have a well-planned use of lucerne balage, and as part of their robust planning process, take the time to calculate stock intake and what would be required to achieve their high growth rate targets. “We target the schedule at peak time for better returns” explains Philip. "We feed supplements out in the paddocks versus in the racks as we find this is more efficient and gets an equal diet to more animals.”
During the transition phase Philip and Alexander fed the baleage out in strips on the runoff ‘night’ paddock. Now that the cattle are transitioned they are on the fodder beet paddock all the time, and the baleage is fed out in strips on the grazed fodder beet standing area just before the new daily break of fodder beet is opened. “We keep an eye on feeding habits and condition, and if and when required we will also install basic roughage in holders in the paddock to allow extra ad lib fibre,” explains Philip, “we believe that we get better utilisation of baleage using this method.”
Learnings from last season’s 32 T crop has meant that this season, the brothers take the stock off the paddock in adverse weather to prevent pugging and reduce potential damage to the soil structure. Good planning for fodder beet includes ensuring time to plan paddock crop rotations. Considering these help support the long term use and success of fodder beet crops by minimising the risk of soil born disease build up, paddock contamination from old bulb chips or bolting fodder beet plants that could set viable seed.
In many cases, a rotation of four or more years is advised and if the rotation length is shorter between crops, care must be taken to ensure the roguing of bolting beet plants. For the last few years the true effect of bolters has been overlooked by many in the sector and their relevancy underestimated. If bolting plants are not removed or destroyed before they complete their life cycle, they can produce up to 6,000 seeds per plant, which can fall to the ground and potentially remain viable over several years. There is the risk that bad cases prevent future fodder beet plantings in those effected paddocks as re-seeded beet establishes at very high populations, and herbicides used in your sown beet crop does not control re-seeded beet, resulting in severe suppression of yield.
For more information on integrating fodder beet in your system, talk to your local PGG Wrightson representative.
Supplied by Agricom