Timing Right to Sow High-Energy Winter Feed Swede Crop

After a cold spring, soil temperatures are now warming up and early June is the ideal time to sow swedes.

Limagrain UK’s Martin Titley is encouraging sheep producers to take advantage of this low growing cost but high yielding and high energy winter feed for ewes and finishing lambs.

North Country Cheviot hoggs on Lomond Swedes

North Country Cheviot hoggs on Lomond Swedes

“Swedes cost around of £403 per hectare – or £62 per tonne of dry matter - to grow, yet produce 80 to 90 tonnes of feed per hectare,” he says. “They can be grazed from October to February, depending on the variety.”

Limagrain field trials highlight the high-energy content of swedes at 12.8 to 13.1MJ. “These energy values are higher than most other forage crops, making them one of the lowest cost but highest yielding and feed value options available,” he adds.

“Even when yields are moderate, they are still a cost-effective feed,” he adds.

Grown on a range of soils, swedes also do well in moist and cooler conditions, making them ideal for most UK sheep farming areas. Swede crops should be drilled into a level seedbed on free draining fields that can be easily grazed.

Swede seed should be treated for flea beetle and sown into a soil with a pH around 6.5. “And it is worth selecting a disease resistant variety. There’s some high performance varieties that are both clubroot and powdery mildew tolerant.”

The latest results from Limagrain’s trials compare popular varieties of swede and show for that the popular varieties Gowrie and Lomond produce dry matter yields 18% and 11% higher than Ruta Otofte. Both varieties were bred by the James Hutton Institute in Scotland.

“However, the variety should also suit the system,” says Mr Titley. “Lomond and Gowrie produce high dry matter yields and consistent performance for feeding from November to January. Invitation, meanwhile, has the highest dry matter content of all varieties on trial at 12.6% and a relative dry matter yield 6% above the control, but it is especially winter hardy so suitable for long keep systems and feeding in January and February.

“It’s also worth considering the feed value in the leaf – varieties with large leaves provide extra grazing potential.”

“Many producers will successfully finish lambs on swedes and a more productive crop – often from a higher yielding variety - will reduce the time to finishing and increase feed efficiency, which all adds to the bottom line.”


  • High energy winter feed (12.8-13.1ME/kg DM)

  • Sow April-June

  • Growing costs around £403/ha

  • High dry matter yields (7-10t/ha)

  • Ideal for finishing lambs and winter maintenance

  • High yielding powdery mildew and club root tolerant varieties available


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