When it comes to fodder beet varieties, two key differences are the bulbs’ dry matter (DM) percentage and the proportion that sits above the ground. Choosing the best variety for your system will depend on your cows’ feed requirements and your intended use, such as for grazing, lifting, or young stock.
To help you make that decision, here are descriptions of the three main fodder beet groupings.
Very high DM percentage (more than 20 percent)
These bulbs sit lower in the soil and are best suited to lifting. Examples include Agriseeds Blizzard and DLF Enermax. With a large portion of the bulb lying underground, these varieties are not recommended for strip grazing. Doing so would result in the cows harvesting less of the crop and ingesting more soil. With mechanical harvesting, leaf removal is more efficient in high-DMpercentage varieties and there is increased storage life after the bulb has been lifted.
Medium to high DM percentage (14-20 percent)
These moderate- to high-DM crops offer flexibility in the system as they can be strip grazed or mechanically lifted. Examples include Speciality Seeds Geronimo and PGG Wrightson Ribambelle. There is potential for these crops to yield more DM/ ha than the low-DM-percentage crops. However, generally only 45 to 50 percent of the bulb sits out of the ground. So, when grazing these varieties, care needs to be taken to reduce the risk of soil ingestion. This can be achieved by offering long, narrow breaks rather than square breaks, or shifting the break several times daily so more of the daily allocation is consumed from in front of the break fence.
Low DM percentage (12-15 percent)
These bulbs are well suited to strip grazing as most of the bulb (about 60 percent) sits above the ground. Examples include SF Brigadier or DLF Feldherr. Low-DM-percentage bulbs are also softer, which makes them easier to eat for young stock with new teeth, or older animals with fewer teeth.
So, when choosing a fodder beet variety, put careful thought into which one is right for your situation. Knowing the fodder beet variety, bulb DM percentage and proportion that lies out of the ground is essential.
Also, avoid changing varieties during the season, particularly during the transition stage. If you do introduce a new variety of fodder beet into the system, factor in any changes in DM percentage and bulb availability/hardness into your allocation and intake calculations.
- Use a high-DM-percentage fodder beet variety if you’re lifting, as these can provide maximum yield/ha.
- Use a low-DM-percentage variety for young stock, as these have softer bulbs that sit further out of the ground.
- Pick a medium- to high-DM-percentage crop for flexibility (lifting and grazing).
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy September 2017