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We travel round the local groups to hear what they have been up to this year – many of these meetings were the first face-to-face ones for New Entrants since early 2020.
By Laura Henderson, Morayshire Group facilitator
SAC Consulting sheep and forage crop specialist Kirsten Williams shared her top tips for growing and managing forage crops to the Morayshire New Entrants group on 31st January. Most of the group had experience of growing and feeding forage crops to sheep and cattle, so a lively discussion arose on the challenges they have faced. These included competition from weeds, problems with establishment in very wet or dry seasons, and setting up electric fences for strip grazing.
Following a discussion on the comparative nutritional content and yields of the different forage crops, Kirsten took the group through a calculation to work out the quantity of ewe rolls required to supplement ewes on forage crops at various time points in the run up to lambing. This highlighted the cost effectiveness of feeding forage crops, especially in the face of the current high feed prices. For example, fodder beet yielding 136 t/ha at a cost of production of £1,200/ha compared to barley yielding 6 t/ha at a cost of production of £950/ha (or purchasing at £210/t) to provide 12.5 MJ ME/kg DM cost only £0.75 for the fodder beet versus £1.75 for the homegrown barley or £2.37 if buying in barley.
The group then calculated the daily feed allocation for a 70 kg ewe on swedes and were also able to practice their body condition scoring of sheep on the model pads Kirsten brought with her. Kirsten’s take-home tips were:
- Calculate the dry matter (DM) yield of forage crops, then the requirement and daily feed allocation.
- Forage crops should only make up 70% daily dry matter intake (DMI), the remaining 30% should come from hay/straw/silage.
- Ensure you have adequate transition time to minimise disruption to the digestive system.
- Strip graze forage crops for maximum utilisation. Long, shallow daily breaks are best.
- Always offer run back and water.
- Monitor body condition at key points.
Further information on forage crop establishment and feeding can be found in the Technical note (TN733): Forage Crops for Livestock and for a suite of information specifically on Fodder Beet Fodder Beet.
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