Fodder beet and swedes are two popular forage crops that farmers often grow to feed their livestock during the winter months. Both crops are high in nutritional value and provide an excellent source of feed for sheep and cattle. However, there are some differences between the two crops that farmers need to be aware of before planting them.
Fodder beet is a root crop that is similar to sugar beet and is rich in sugar and energy. It is a popular crop in the UK and is often grown to feed dairy cows, beef cattle, and sheep. Fodder beet is a high-yielding crop that can produce up to 30 tonnes of dry matter per hectare. It is also a versatile crop that can be fed to livestock in different ways, such as in a total mixed ration or as a supplement to other forage crops.
Swedes, on the other hand, are a type of turnip that are rich in vitamins and minerals. They are a popular crop in the UK and are often grown to feed sheep and cattle. Swedes are a low-cost crop that can produce up to 20 tonnes of dry matter per hectare. They are also a hardy crop that can withstand tough winter conditions, making them an ideal crop for farmers who live in areas with harsh winters.
Comparative Analysis of Fodder Beet and Swedes
When it comes to choosing between fodder beet and swedes for livestock feed, it’s important to consider the nutritional value and suitability for different types of livestock.
Nutritional Value and Energy Content
Fodder beet is known to be a high-energy feed for livestock, with a high sugar content and high dry matter yield. It is also a good source of minerals, such as potassium and magnesium. On the other hand, swedes are a good source of energy and protein, with a lower sugar content compared to fodder beet. They are also rich in minerals such as calcium and phosphorus.
In terms of energy content, fodder beet has a higher energy value per kilogram of dry matter compared to swedes. However, swedes have a higher protein content and a better balance of minerals, making them a good source of high-quality feed.
Suitability for Different Livestock
Both fodder beet and swedes are suitable for feeding to cattle and sheep, but there are some differences in how they should be used. Fodder beet is best suited for lactating cows and finishing beef cattle due to its high energy content. It can also be used to supplement sheep feed during the winter months.
Swedes, on the other hand, are more suitable for feeding sheep and young cattle due to their lower energy content and higher protein content. They are also a good source of minerals, making them a good choice for pregnant and lactating ewes.
Overall, both fodder beet and swedes have their own unique benefits and can be used as part of a balanced diet for livestock. It’s important to consider the nutritional needs of your animals and choose the feed that best meets those needs.
Cultivation and Management Practices
Soil Requirements and Preparation
When it comes to soil requirements, both fodder beet and swedes prefer well-drained, fertile soils. However, swedes are more tolerant of acidic soils compared to fodder beet. Soil pH should be maintained at around 6.0 to 6.5 for fodder beet and 5.5 to 6.0 for swedes. Lime can be added to acidic soils to raise the pH level.
Before planting, the soil should be prepared by ploughing and harrowing to create a fine and firm seedbed. For fodder beet, it is recommended to use precision drills to ensure accurate sowing depth and spacing. Swedes can be sown using conventional cultivation techniques.
Sowing Techniques and Crop Rotation
Fodder beet and swedes are both members of the brassica family and should not be grown in the same field for more than two years. Crop rotation is essential to prevent the buildup of pests and diseases in the soil. It is recommended to rotate with cereal crops or grass leys.
Fodder beet is typically sown in late April to early May, while swedes are sown in mid-April to early May. The optimum sowing depth for both crops is around 1-1.5 cm. Sowing rates can vary depending on the method of sowing. For drilled crops, the sowing rate is between 0.1-1.0 kg/ha for swedes and 1.5-2.5 kg/ha for fodder beet. For broadcast and rolled crops, the sowing rate for swedes is 1.0-3.0 kg/ha, while for fodder beet it is 2.5-3.5 kg/ha.
Fertiliser and Weed Control
Fertiliser requirements for both crops are similar, with nitrogen being the most important nutrient. For swedes, a total of 200-300 kg/ha of nitrogen is required, while for fodder beet it is 250-350 kg/ha. Boron is also an essential micronutrient for both crops, with a requirement of around 0.5 kg/ha.
Weed control is essential for both crops, especially during the early stages of growth. Herbicides can be used to control weeds, but care should be taken to ensure that the herbicide used is safe for the crop.
Harvesting and Storage
Optimal Harvesting Time and Methods
When it comes to harvesting fodder beet and swedes, it is important to do so at the optimal time to ensure maximum yield and quality. For both crops, the ideal time to lift is after the first frost, as this helps to convert some of the starches to sugars, making them more palatable and nutritious for livestock.
For fodder beet, it is recommended to lift the crop with a sugar beet harvester, as this helps to minimize damage and loss. Swedes, on the other hand, can be lifted with a potato harvester or plough, but care must be taken to avoid bruising and damage.
Storage Techniques and Shelf Life
Once lifted, both fodder beet and swedes can be stored for winter feed. Fodder beet can be ensiled or stored in clamps, while swedes are best stored in silage.
When storing fodder beet in clamps, it is important to ensure that the clamp is well-sealed to prevent air from entering, which can cause spoilage and loss of nutrients. The crop should also be covered with a layer of straw or plastic to further protect it from the elements.
Swedes, on the other hand, are best stored in silage, as this helps to preserve their moisture content and nutritional value. It is important to ensure that the silage is tightly packed and well-sealed to prevent air from entering.
Both fodder beet and swedes have a shelf life of around 6-8 months when stored correctly. It is important to regularly monitor the crops for spoilage and to remove any damaged or spoiled sections to prevent further spoilage.
Overall, when it comes to harvesting and storage of fodder beet and swedes, it is important to follow best practices to ensure maximum yield and quality. By lifting at the optimal time and storing correctly, farmers can ensure a reliable and nutritious winter feed for their livestock.
Feeding Strategies and Animal Health
Incorporating Root Crops into Animal Diets
When incorporating root crops such as fodder beet and swedes into animal diets, it is important to consider their nutritional value and how they fit into the overall diet. Both fodder beet and swedes are high in energy and can be used to supplement grazing during periods of low pasture growth. However, it is important to monitor intakes and supplement as needed to ensure that animals are meeting their nutritional requirements.
According to Dairynz, “fodder beet is a feed option for cows that requires careful planning to avoid health issues such as acidosis. Before feeding it, you should measure your crop yield and test the leaf and bulb to determine its nutritional content.” It is also important to introduce fodder beet gradually to prevent rumen upset such as acidosis. Swedes, on the other hand, are less likely to cause acidosis but can still be used to supplement grazing.
Monitoring Health and Performance
When feeding root crops, it is important to monitor animal health and performance to ensure that they are meeting their nutritional requirements. Body condition scoring can be used to assess whether animals are gaining or losing weight, while monitoring rumen function can help to identify any issues with digestion.
Dry matter intake should also be monitored to ensure that animals are consuming enough feed. According to AHDB, “outwintering can be a great alternative to housing, with many animals maintaining good condition and liveweight gain. However, it requires careful stockmanship and animal management.” This includes monitoring feed intake and supplementing as needed to ensure that animals are getting the nutrients they need.
In summary, incorporating root crops such as fodder beet and swedes into animal diets can be a useful strategy for supplementing grazing during periods of low pasture growth. However, it is important to monitor intakes and supplement as needed to ensure that animals are meeting their nutritional requirements. Monitoring animal health and performance is also important to identify any issues with digestion or nutrient deficiencies.