Thursday, 12 March 2020 10:02

Portion control key when it comes to fodder beet

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Fodder beet is widely grown on South Island farms. Fodder beet is widely grown on South Island farms.

Fodder beet can be a key part of your farm’s feed regime, but restrict its usage, says DairyNZ.

New research shows the crop should make up no more than 30% of lactating cows’ diet and 60% for non-lactating cows.

The Sustainable Use of Fodder Beet research project looks at nutrient and mineral interactions, and impacts on long-term animal health and welfare. A literature review undertaken as part of the project has confirmed the crop’s benefits and challenges. 

“Fodder beet will continue to be a key part of New Zealand dairy systems – but it should not be seen as a complete diet,” says DairyNZ senior scientist, Dawn Dalley. 

Fodder beet is widely used on South Island dairy farms and is a versatile, high energy, high yield crop which allows cows to put on body condition quickly, if transitioned correctly.

Dalley says this makes it an attractive option for farmers. But because of the high sugar content, careful transitioning onto the crop is critical, she adds. 

The use of fodder beet has increased over the past decade and today around 55,000ha is estimated to be planted annually in New Zealand. Most fodder beet is grown in the South Island – with the project survey showing 79% of Canterbury/North Otago farms and 58% of South Otago/Southland dairy farms feed cows the crop. 

In recent years, some farmers have become concerned about potential health effects on herds. Cows can develop ruminal acidosis, milk fever or nutrient deficiencies if fodder beet is grazed for long periods without appropriate alternative feed and mineral supplementation.   

Recent research and nutritional modelling has reinforced current recommendations that - for consistent herd performance and to minimise nutrient deficiencies - fodder beet should make up no more than 30% of the diet for lactating cows and 60% for non-lactating cows.

Dalley says many farmers are successfully combining fodder beet with other feeds to provide cows with a diet that meets nutritional requirements and is cost-effective.  

“By using feed testing which includes mineral composition analysis of fodder beet and other feed, farmers can tailor cow diets to address any nutrient deficiencies. Using this approach, fodder beet can be a valuable feed option which contributes to a productive dairy system.” 

Fodder beet is a hardy autumn and winter crop with environmental benefits. The beet’s low nitrogen content results in reduced urine nitrogen concentrations, leading to less nitrate leaching from animals grazing the crop, compared to kale. It is also an important break crop in winter rotations which use kale and swedes, and allows farmers to successfully crop areas affected by brassica disease.

More like this

Farmers face tough decision

"Robust discussions" are expected when farmers gather early next year to discuss alternatives to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Tributes to a dairy champion

Fonterra chairman Peter McBride has paid tribute to dairy industry leader John Luxton, who passed away earlier this month.

Tell NZ's world-leading story!

DairyNZ was keen for Climate Change Minister James Shaw to go into bat for Kiwi dairy farmers and the split gas approach at the recent COP26.

Global methane pledge

DairyNZ says the sector is committed to playing its part to reduce global methane levels by 30% by 2030.

National

Rounding up on Round-Up

There's growing talk around New Zealand and the world about glyphosate being a health hazard, possibly a carcinogenic.

Machinery & Products

Vaderstad's new drill is Inspire(d)

Tillage, seeding and planting specialists Vaderstad has introduced its new Inspire product range – focused on the 12-metre seed drill…

JD's new 6Rs for 2022

With the upcoming market year 2022 (MY22) only a few weeks away, John Deere has released details of changes to…

New features on Case IH Optum

The latest Case IH Optum AFS Connect range features a new cab, interior and connectivity package designed to benefit both…

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Fond farewell

OPINION: Your canine crusader would like to pay tribute and a fond farewell to former Agriculture Minister and Dairy NZ…

Front page!

OPINION: This old mutt reckons (un) social media is just an echo chamber of self-important, self-professed experts who lecture and…

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter