freshly pulled swedes in a pile in the field

Swedes For Livestock: A Powerhouse Stockfeed for Livestock Health and Performance

Swedes, a root vegetable related to turnips and rutabagas, play a significant role in stockfeed due to their high nutritional value.

Incorporating swedes into the diet of livestock brings diverse benefits that contribute to overall health and productivity. In this article, we will explore the nutritional value of swedes for livestock and highlight the advantages of including them in their diets.

By understanding these benefits, farmers can make informed decisions and optimize the well-being of their animals.

Nutritional Value of Swedes for Livestock:

Swedes are a nutritional powerhouse for livestock, providing a rich array of essential nutrients.

They are a great source of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, all of which are vital for the health and well-being of animals. These nutrients contribute to optimal growth, improved productivity, and enhanced disease resistance in livestock.

Energy Source and Weight Gain:

Swedes serve as an excellent energy source for livestock.

The carbohydrates present in swedes are converted into energy, fueling the animals’ daily activities and supporting weight gain.

This is particularly beneficial for young animals that require additional energy for growth and development. By incorporating swedes into their diet, farmers can ensure that their livestock receive the energy they need to thrive.

Fiber Content and Digestive Health:

Fiber plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy digestive system in livestock, and swedes are an excellent source of dietary fiber. The fiber content in swedes aids in regulating digestion, promoting efficient nutrient absorption, and preventing digestive disorders.

By including swedes in the diet, farmers can support the overall digestive health of their animals, leading to improved feed efficiency and nutrient utilization.

Hydration and Water Content:

Swedes have a high water content, making them an effective way to keep livestock hydrated. Adequate hydration is essential for maintaining overall health and performance in animals, especially during dry periods.

Offering swedes as a water-rich alternative can help ensure that livestock stay properly hydrated, leading to improved well-being and productivity.

Enhancing Immune System:

Swedes contain a variety of vitamins and minerals that play a crucial role in boosting the immune system of livestock.

These nutrients strengthen the animals’ defenses against diseases and infections, reducing the risk of illness. By incorporating swedes into the diet, farmers can support their animals’ immune function, potentially leading to a decrease in veterinary costs and overall better health outcomes.

Swedes as Seasonal Feed:

Swedes can be grown and stored for use as seasonal feed, offering farmers a cost-effective and sustainable option. They can be cultivated during specific times of the year when other forage options may be limited.

Proper storage techniques allow farmers to have a readily available source of nutritious feed for their livestock during these periods. Integrating swedes into livestock feeding routines provides a valuable resource that supports animal nutrition and reduces reliance on expensive alternatives.

Benefits of Swedes for Sheep:

Sheep farmers can reap several advantages by incorporating swedes into their livestock’s diet.

Swedes boast a high energy content derived from carbohydrates, supporting weight gain and promoting optimal growth, particularly in lambs. Moreover, the fiber present in swedes facilitates healthy digestion, reducing the risk of digestive disorders among sheep.

sheep eating swedes in a field of short grass
Swedes offer valuable assistance when grass is low.
  • Lambs: Feeding lambs 0.5 – 1 kg of swedes per day can contribute to an additional weight gain of approximately 0.1 – 0.2 kg per day.
  • Feeding adult sheep 1 – 2 kg of swedes per day can potentially lead to an extra weight gain of around 0.2 – 0.4 kg per day.

Feeding Swedes to Sheep:

When it comes to feeding swedes to sheep, chopping is not always necessary.

Farmers can simply place whole swedes in feeding troughs, allowing sheep to gnaw at them as desired. This method provides easy access to the nutritional benefits of swedes while minimizing waste.

For larger-scale operations, mechanical root chopper machines can be utilized to chop swedes, making them more manageable for feeding.

Benefits of Swedes for Beef Cows:

Swedes also offer significant benefits when included in the diet of beef cows.

As an excellent source of energy, swedes aid in weight gain and improve the overall condition of beef cows. The fiber content in swedes supports a healthy digestive system and enhances feed efficiency, promoting optimal growth and development in cattle.

  • Calves: Providing calves with 1 – 2 kg of swedes daily can contribute to an additional weight gain of approximately 0.2 – 0.4 kg per day.
  • Adult Beef Cows: Feeding adult beef cows 2 – 4 kg of swedes per day can potentially result in an extra weight gain of around 0.4 – 0.8 kg per day.

Feeding Swedes to Beef Cows:

Feeding swedes after calving or finishing cattle – swedes offer many benefits.

When feeding swedes to beef cows, chopping them is often recommended.

Chopping the swedes facilitates easier consumption and reduces the risk of choking. Manual chopping using a spade or employing mechanized root chopper machines are both suitable methods.

Chopped swedes can then be placed in feeding troughs or buckets for individual feeding or incorporated into a diet feeder for larger herds, ensuring a consistent and balanced diet for the cows.

Benefits of Swedes for Dairy Cows:

Dairy cows can also benefit from incorporating swedes into their feed.

Swedes provide a rich source of energy, supporting milk production and maintaining optimal body condition in dairy cows. Furthermore, the high water content in swedes aids in hydration, ensuring adequate milk yield and overall cow health.

Swedes should be fed to heifers at the rate of 2 – 4kg per day and 4 – 8kg per day for lactating cows.

While the exact volume of extra milk is difficult to quantify because of different cow genetics, swedes will provide the following benefits:

  1. Increased Energy Intake: Swedes are a good source of carbohydrates and energy, which can help meet the high energy demands of lactating dairy cows. The additional energy from swedes can support milk production and overall cow performance.
  2. Enhanced Milk Production: The extra energy provided by swedes can contribute to increased milk volume. This can be particularly beneficial during periods of high milk production or when cows require additional energy to maintain their milk yield.
  3. Improved Body Condition: Swedes can help maintain or improve the body condition of dairy cows. The energy from swedes allows cows to use their feed more efficiently, preventing excessive weight loss and promoting optimal body condition.
  4. Nutritional Balance: Swedes offer a range of essential vitamins and minerals, contributing to a balanced diet for dairy cows. These nutrients support overall cow health, immune function, and milk quality.
  5. Hydration: Swedes have a high water content, contributing to the hydration of dairy cows. Proper hydration is essential for optimal milk production and overall cow well-being.

Feeding Swedes to Dairy Cows:

Adding chopped swede to a diet feeder ration is a great way of boosting intake.

For dairy cows, it is common practice to chop swedes before feeding them.

This can be done manually or more commonly with the assistance of a mechanized root chopper machine such as a root chopping bucket.

Alternatively, if your diet feeder has blades the swedes can be added whole and chopped in it before adding other forage. Once chopped, the swedes can be added to the diet feeder mix, ensuring even distribution and easy consumption for the cows.

This feeding method helps maintain a consistent and balanced diet, optimizing milk production and cow well-being.

Feeding Rates Of Swedes

The table below will give you a guide of how much swede should be fed to your livestock on a daily basis.

AnimalDaily Swede Feeding RecommendationAs Swedes
SheepLambs: 0.5 – 1kg/day0.5 to 1
Adult sheep: 1-2kg/day1 to 2
Beef CowsCalves: 1-2kg/day1 to 2
Adult Beef Cows: 2-4kg/day2 to 4
Dairy CowsHeifers: 2-4kg/day2 to 4
Lactating Dairy Cows 4-8kg/day4+
(increasing feed above 4kg/day should be gradual)
Livestock daily swede feeding recommendation:


Incorporating swedes into the diet of livestock offers a multitude of benefits.

The high nutritional content, including carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, contributes to improved nutrition, weight gain, and overall health. Swedes promote digestive health, hydration, and immune system support in animals. Additionally, they serve as a sustainable and cost-effective seasonal feed option. By considering the advantages of swedes as stockfeed, farmers can enhance the well-being and productivity of their livestock, leading to more successful and sustainable farming practices.