Selecting the right forage crop

With an extensive range of alternative forages on the market to choose from, it’s vital that producers select the crop, or a combination, that best meets their herd’s feed requirements. Both red and white clovers are popular choices for those looking to diversify forage production, with clover providing high-protein feed that also helps fix nitrogen into the soil. White clover is palatable, highly digestible and works well in a mixed sward. But it’s important to remember that clovers require warmer temperatures – around 8°C – to grow, compared to ryegrass, and grazing schedules should be planned accordingly.

RED Clover no flowers - ForFarmers UK

Forage root crops, including kale, stubble turnips, swede and forage rape, can all produce high yields during a relatively short growing period. This makes them an ideal choice when there are forage gaps that need to be filled throughout the year. To achieve the best results, these crops need to be strip or block grazed, which does require extra management. With the potential to yield between 12tDM and 14tDM/ha each year, and with a protein content of between 18% and 24%, lucerne is also becoming increasingly popular as an alternative forage. If managed correctly, lucerne leys can be productive for up to five years, with the ability to sustain four cuts a year. Lucerne can be grazed, but most producers opt to bale or clamp this high-protein forage.

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