Forage root crops are a cost-effective solution for supplementing dairy rations when other fodder crops are scarce, particularly during dry summer spells. Brassicas also provide a valuable alternative when grass growth slows, and produce high yields during a short growing period, as well as contributing substantial amounts of fresh fodder for rations.
Mixed forage diets improve cattle performance and feed utilisation by helping to increase feed intakes and improve rumen stability. Various options are available, such as fodder beet, kale, forage rape, hybrid brassicas and stubble turnips.
Fodder beet can produce substantial yields of high quality, high-energy (between 12.5MJ/kgDM and 13.5 MJ/ kgDM) palatable forage. Kale is an extremely adaptable crop that can provide a high crude protein content of between 16% and 17%. Forage rape is a good autumn/winter keep with a dry matter content of between 12% and 14%. Stubble turnips are often grown after first-cut silage for summer grazing, or after winter cereals for autumn grazing, and can supply between 17% and 18% protein.
Fodder crops also have agronomic benefits and provide an excellent break crop as part of wider rotations, particularly after entry back into grass. These crops can be grown in a wide range of locations and soil types and help add organic matter to improve soil structure.