Fodder beet is commonly used for BCS gain and to grow replacements through the winter in farming systems with negligible winter pasture growth. Fodder beet is also used as a feed for lactating cows to fill feed gaps in late lactation and for grazing young stock.
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
- Feed with low nitrogen content, can help reducing nitrate leaching when it substitutes high-N pasture or supplementary feed
- Alternative crop rotations and an alternative to brassicas, including winter swedes and kale
Other factors to consider
- Feeding fodder beet has animal health challenges therefore requires attention to detail throughout the feeding period
- Environmental challenges exist when grazing forage crops, however there are many strategies for minimising environmental impacts
Considering growing and feeding fodder beet over autumn?
- Feed supply; with cropping paddocks out of rotation over spring this 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. Our research has shown the following requirements as a guideline to reduce acidosis risk:
- For lactating cows, feed 40% or less of total DMI as Fodder Beet
- For Dry cows, feed 70% or less of total DMI as Fodder Beet.
Fodder beet considerations
When growing fodder beet, consider cow numbers, yield and utilisation; establishment costs, the economics, fodder beet variety; and estimating fodder beet yield.
Late lactation fodder beet
Factors to consider when feeding fodder beet in late lactation. The relatively low protein, fibre, calcium and phosphorus content of fodder beet creates an upper limit to how much can be fed during lactation..
Wintering on fodder beet
Fodder beet's high quality means the feed is digested quickly so the cows have the capacity to eat more. A fibre source such as baleage, silage, hay or straw, is required to make the cows feel full for longer.
Fodder beet transitioning
The key consideration when transitioning cows onto fodder beet is adapting rumen microbes to a change in feed type. Rumen microbes must adapt to the fodder beet bulb's sugar rich content and the targeted level of intake to prevent acidosis and other non-acidosis related disease.
Growing fodder beet
The key to successful fodder beet is to follow good practices, starting with paddock selection. Fodder beet requires attention to detail to get good results.