Fodder Beet overview


2 min read

Why fodder beet? Key factors to consider Talking Dairy podcasts

Fodder beet is a crop with high yield potential that offers many benefits for dairy farming, including adding body condition to cows and having less environmental impact than other feeds. Growing fodder beet requires attention to details like paddock selection, and it must be managed correctly to ensure the health of your cows. The page highlights the flexibility of fodder beet, its long shelf life, and low nitrogen content. Key considerations are mentioned, such as minimising environmental impacts, avoiding feed supply issues, and proper transitioning to reduce acidosis risk. Tools and resources are provided to help you decide if fodder beet is right for your farm.

Fodder beet has a lot to offer when managed correctly. It has a high yield potential and its high energy is great for putting body condition on cows.

There are environmental benefits as well, with reduced risk of nitrate leaching compared to kale, and less methane emissions than kale or pasture.

However, it is critical to understand the ins and outs of fodder beet to get the best out of your crop and ensure your cows are kept healthy and receive the appropriate nutrition. Fodder beet is a great cropping option but requires careful management and staff experience.

Why fodder beet?

  • Flexibility i.e. grazed or lifted and fodder beet has a long shelf life - in-ground or harvested.
  • Consistent and high-quality feed, and a high yield potential when grown well.
  • A feed with low nitrogen content can help reduce nitrate leaching when it substitutes high-N pasture or supplementary feed.
  • Alternative crop rotations and an alternative to brassicas, including winter swedes and kale.

Key factors to consider

  • Environmental challenges exist when grazing forage crops, however, there are many strategies for minimising environmental impacts.
  • Feed supply: cropping paddocks out of rotation over spring can cause a feed pinch.
  • Avoiding acidosis: transition cows carefully on to crop and make sure that cows meet their full nutritional requirements while on crop, this requires attention to detail throughout the feeding period. Our research has shown the following requirements as a guideline to reduce acidosis risk:
    • Lactating cows - feed 40% or less of total DMI as fodder beet.
    • Dry cows - feed 70% or less of total DMI as fodder beet.

Fodder beet resources

Find out if fodder beet is the right crop for you by taking the quiz and find out about the feed checker calculator to assess current and proposed diets.

Talking Dairy podcasts

Episode 25: Fodder beet - know what you're feeding

Does fodder beet have a positive future as a feed for cows in New Zealand? What are some key things to consider when feeding beet through winter? And how do you put systems in place to maximise cow performance and animal health, while also minimising fodder beet’s risks? Here to answer those questions, and more, are DairyNZ scientist Dr Roshean Woods and veterinarian Dr Charlotte Westwood. Roshean and Charlotte have been involved in a three-year research project on fodder beet and they share the results with us.

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Episode 31: How fodder beet's use has evolved

Fodder beet offers many benefits as an alternative crop to brassicas, but it also presents risks and challenges. So, what can we learn from recent research about how to deal with those risks and challenges? How have farmers adapted their feeding practices over time? And do we have all the answers or is there more research required? In this episode DairyNZ senior scientist Dawn Dalley summarises recent research findings, and North Canterbury dairy farmer and veterinarian Trish McIntosh joins us to share her experiences of using fodder beet.

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DairyNZ’s Making Fodder Beet Sustainable for Dairy Cattle project is part of our research work to build farmer confidence in feeding fodder beet.

The project started in 2018 and is due to end in May 2023. It is funded through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures, PGGWrightson Seeds, and by dairy farmers through DairyNZ.

Last updated: Sep 2023
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