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Multi-Graze Fodder Crops Can Cut Costs
26/07/07

Summer and autumn feeding costs can be cut dramatically by adopting a multi-graze management strategy with selected fodder crops, says British Seed Houses.

The new utility brassica Swift.

brassica Swift

With the appropriate management, a number of recently introduced grazing brassicas offer second and often third grazing opportunities, allowing establishment costs to be spread across significantly increased dry matter tonnages.

Multi-graze fodder crops currently available include the grazing turnip variety Appin and the new utility brassica Swift, whilst the new leafy turnip Fieldfare to be introduced next year will offer the most rapid regrowth potential yet.

“Forage brassicas have traditionally been seen as a single grazing crop in the UK, but our experience in other parts of the world with some of the newer varieties shows that a multi-grazing strategy is perfectly possible,” says Michael Shannon of British Seed Houses.

“The key management point is to avoid damage to the crown of the plant by moving the stock on whilst there is still 5 – 10 cm of growth above the ground. This is best achieved by increasing stocking rate and reducing the grazing time.

“Once the grazing session is complete, apply nitrogen fertiliser at 35 – 40 kgN/ha, in anticipation of a 4 – 6 week regrowth period for Appin grazing turnips or Swift.

“Assuming your original crop has provided in the region of 3-4,000 kgDM/ha of available fodder, you can expect around 75% (2,500kgDM/ha) from a second grazing, and then as much as 60% (2,000kgDM/ha) from a third grazing in some cases.

“Bearing in mind that the only additional cost is the fertiliser, your overall cost/kg DM is going to be cut by a minimum of 40-50% by adopting a multi-graze strategy.”

Michael Shannon says that multi-grazing can be used with all classes of ruminant livestock, including dairy cows, but is a particularly effective method of fattening lambs.

“If strip grazing with cattle it may be advisable to use a back fence to protect the regrowth, whilst with sheep it is often better to split paddocks into smaller areas to allow animals to be moved on more quickly.

“In addition to Appin and Fieldfare grazing turnips and Swift, Puna II perennial chicory is an ideal perennial plant for multi-grazing when grown as a pure stand. This crop can offer rotational grazing over a period of 3 or 4 years, and can also be included in grass and clover mixtures.”

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