Chris Delladova from Kober in fodder beat in December
There has been significant excitement amongst farmers in the Accelerating Change project around the potential for fodder beets as a direct grazing option for the region. Fodder beet is high yielding annual crop which provides feed over late summer and autumn. It has large leafy top and large bulbs that sit high up out of the soil. This distinguishes it from sugar beet, where the majority of the bulb sits within the soil, and needs mechanical lifting in order to be grazed directly. Fodder beet also has a slightly softer bulb, and has been specifically bred for animal feed purposes, so has a lower nitrate content in the leaf than sugar beet.
Fodder beet is grown extensively in New Zealand and the UK, and has the potential for very high yields (30t/ha plus) under good management. Nutritive characteristics are around 12.5-13.5 ME and 6-8% protein. In Australia, fodder beet has been trialled in QLD, Tasmania and WA. There is an excellent video series developed by the C4 Milk project by University of Queensland and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. These cover establishment, crop and grazing management.
Recent yields on this site have measured 26t/ha and farmers viewed the results at a recent field day. Subtropical Dairy and the C4 Milk project has provided some very useful information on the trial and how to manage grazing of fodder beat to ensure cow health, including gradually introducing fodder beet into the diet and restricting volume. This is critical to avoid acidosis.
Locally, service providers Kober are managing two trial plots across 55 ha in the Goulburn Valley, under both flood and pivot irrigation. Both plots are establishing well and will be ready for grazing in late January or early February. An open day will be conducted on 3 February 2016 in Girgarre. For more information contact Kober.
Accelerating Change will be watching this closely to see how lessons may be applied onto our Partner and PIT farms.