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Rural Diary
1 August 2017 External Supplier

Good planning key to success with fodder beet

The results that Phil Chapman of South Canterbury has had feeding beet to R1s and R2s on his sheep and beef property prove that effective planning is key to a successful fodder beet crop.

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 like Phil are now successfully using beet to put liveweight gain onto 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.

Phil Chapman has a 530 ha property in Kakahu between Geraldine and Fairlie. Planting 7 ha of dryland fodder beet, Phil focuses on getting the inputs right and follows a fertiliser recommendation plan set with his PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative Matt Cooper. “Stick to the plan when transitioning as well, if you get that right it is simple for the rest of the winter,” explains Phil.

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.

Spring can be a tight time feed wise for Phil, so the ability to keep animals on beet longer in the spring to let sufficient grass covers build is great. “The flexibility of grazing is fantastic,” explains Phil “I love fodder beet for the extra yield I get in the same area versus kale. It is nearly double, and once transitioned it is really easy to feed out.”

Phil feeds a good quality supplement with his fodder beet, particularly to the yearlings as they need to grow muscle and need a good protein source to achieve this. Cattle from last year fed fodder beet went on the crop at 260 kg liveweight and achieved gains of 1.2 kg/head/day, coming off the beet at 405 kg liveweight. 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.

As per recommended crop husbandry, Phil does not double crop his fodder beet. Following his fodder beet, Phil is planning on sowing a Relish red clover stand so his weed control programme is especially important.

For more information on integrating fodder beet in your system, talk to your local PGG Wrightson representative.

Supplied by Agricom

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Good planning key to success with fodder beet

01 August 2017

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

Waitatapia Station produces high-yield production crops

04 September 2017

Ever wondered how our Technical Team can add value to your farming operation? We profile how PGG Wrightson Technical Specialist (Soil Science) Stephanie Sloan, works alongside locally-based PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representatives (TFR) to provide support to Waitatapia Station.

Waitatapia Station in the Rangitikei District near Palmerston North is a fifth generation farm with four separate blocks totalling an area of 2,500 hectares. The Station was originally bought by the Dalrymple family in 1883. Currently run by brothers Roger and Hew, it is an arable and drystock farming operation; Hew runs the forestry and arable side and Roger manages the stock operation. Their children, the fifth generation, are now working alongside them on the Station.

The Station has annual finishing numbers of 35,000 lambs and 4,000 steers along with 9,000 pre-isolation heifers, so it is important that their production crops perform at a high level.

For the last two years PGG Wrightson Technical Specialist (Soil Science) Stephanie Sloan has been working alongside Roger at Waitatapia Station with his crop management and agronomy programme.

Roger Dalrymple said, “We work with Stephanie throughout the year, from the planning through to the harvesting stage. We harvest in May and review soon afterwards for the year ahead, then sow in late October. Then once the seed is in the ground, Stephanie’s technical advice, including a tailored agronomy (spray and fertiliser management) programme, is implemented by our team."

Stephanie Sloan said, “Roger sows in free draining sandy soil, so developing a customised agronomy programme to meet the specific needs of this soil type is essential to ensure they achieve maximum crop yields at harvest time. We have also implemented a soil and herbage testing programme that has been put in place over the past few years for their production crops."

Roger adds, Fodder beet grows well here. We make decisions based on yield and it is cheaper to produce dry matter with forage crops than it is winter grazed pasture.

“By working with Stephanie and reviewing and then adjusting our crop choice and agronomy programme every year, we have made yield increases and increased bulb weight year-on-year. We produce a silage mix which we feed to our feedlot cattle from May through to October.

“Not only has our yield increased year-on-year but the numbers stack up too. We have produced up to 32 tonne/ha DM (bulb only) this year with about 15 percent tops. The experts say that production crops, like fodder beet, should cost $2,500 to $3,000 per hectare. This year it cost us $2,600 per hectare – so we are pretty happy with that result. We harvested about 80 hectares in fodder beet and are looking to increase that area next year.

“We have a big finishing operation here and because we are buying in weaners at a high price currently we need to have an efficient feed production programme so we still make a few dollars at the other end when they get to R2s,” Roger said.

Stephanie concludes, “Waitatapia Station is a highly diverse operation across their four blocks, so there is always the opportunity to try something new, whether it be an upcoming forage variety or an agronomy option. The knowledge gained from these initiatives contributes to both research and development from a PGG Wrightson perspective, and gives us the opportunity to share this with our customers throughout New Zealand.”


Pictured: PGG Wrightson’s Technical Specialist (Soil Science) Stephanie Sloan inspects a paddock of fodder beet with Roger Dalrymple in late June 2017 prior to harvesting for silage.

Growing high-yielding fodder beet

01 October 2017

Attention to detail will help you get the most out of this forage crop.

Paddock selection and preparation
Consider access, soil structure, previous crop, spray history, and fertility when selecting your paddock.

  • If planting after beet, radish, peas, potatoes or mustard, monitor crop health as these crops host aphids, which can spread disease in fodder beet. If planting fodder beet in the same paddock two years running consider potential impact of re-growth from bulb chips.
  • Control weeds well in advance as fodder beet seedlings are slow to establish and vulnerable to spray residues. Plant after pasture if uncertain about spray history.
  • You need a fine, firm seedbed and soil that is good at holding water during early development, but not prone to pugging/compaction during grazing/harvest. Consider access for machinery and/or stock.
  • Target soil test samples (150 mm in depth) a minimum of six months before sowing. Twelve months prior is best to allow time for pH adjustments. See Table 1 for target soil test levels for fodder beet
  • Fodder beet is sensitive to acid soils. To adjust pH, use good quality ag-lime and for best results cultivate lime in to achieve the desired pH throughout the top 150 mm. It generally takes one tonne of lime per hectare to raise soil pH by 0.1 unit. Products from the Cropzeal and Superten ranges are suitable base fertiliser options. Magnesium oxide and Muriate of Potash (MOP) can be used to address magnesium and potassium levels as required. Ensure any salt applied is kept away from seed.

A good start
Fodder beet has a relatively low requirement for phosphorus, but starter fertiliser is vital for early root development.

  • Actyva S is a quality compound fertiliser that delivers the nutrients required for early growth. It performs well when drilling and is useful where potassium is required. Cropzeal Boron Boost is another good compound starter fertiliser option, especially where boron is needed to avoid brown heart.
  • Seed coated with fungicide and insecticide is recommended.
  • Aphids responsible for the beet western yellow virus hatch in spring and fly to host plants. Drilling to avoid this post-hatching flight time may help avoid infestation.

Nitrogen for yield
One or two early side-dressings of nitrogen grow leaf area quickly to drive bulb yield.

  • Take soil samples to 150 mm depth for available N testing. If available N levels are less than 100 kg N/ha, apply 100-150 kg SustaiN or Nrich urea/ha at canopy closure.
  • When applying nitrogen in dry conditions, SustaiN is your best choice to reduce nitrogen losses through ammonia volatilisation.
  • Potassium demands can increase post-emergence. If you need to split potassium applications between base fertiliser and post-emergence dressings, the SustaiN K range is useful.

The finishing touch
Watch closely for pests and diseases and act quickly to avoid crop loss. Some diseases affecting fodder beet cause leaf yellowing, which has been mistaken for nutrient deficiency. Herbage test to ensure optimal nutrient application.

For help with your fodder beet crop, talk to your Ballance Nutrient Specialist or your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative.

Supplied by Ballance Agri-Nutrients

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