Understanding how different brassicas could fit within your farming system
Selecting forage crops can be confusing, especially with unpredictable weather patterns and market conditions. Understanding how different brassicas could fit into your system is important and can be a way to manage risk and build resilience.
For Waipukurau PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative, James Parsons, it is about building a feed management plan that adds flexibility to account for seasonal variability and mitigates risk if pasture growth and quality are below expectations.
“Choosing forage brassicas that perform in the dry and offer flexibility is a way of doing that,” says James.
Farm system fit forms part of the decision-making process for James when helping farmers select their forage brassica option. “I generally work forward from a planting date to ideal first graze timing, grazing stock class/numbers, and what the autumn and winter may look like for the paddocks.”
A relatively new forage brassica, Pallaton Raphno®, has been used in the Hawke’s Bay region over the past few years. Pallaton is ideal for dry conditions.
“I have seen Raphno perform its best when we are given a dry season in Central Hawke’s Bay. If it is established in the correct manner, like any other small seed, with weeds and insects controlled, it seems to thrive,” says James.
Pallaton requires a good level of grazing management and needs to be grazed early, 50 days after emergence, to encourage regrowth potential. “The first grazing is the key to setting up how well the crop performs through its lifecycle, and this is best achieved through doing a feed budget and using rotational grazing.”
Another option increasing in popularity is planting kale as an alternative late autumn feed. Grazed lightly, kale also has the potential to regrow for winter and it can be used as a tool for flushing breeding stock pre-tup, to improve hogget growth rates and finish livestock.
“Kale gives farmers flexibility of when they can graze it. If they are experiencing a good season, grazing can be pushed back to suit what is happening with feed on the rest of the farm. Alternatively, an early graze as part of a finishing system works well too,” says James.
Short kales, such as Kestrel, have been popular with sheep farmers due to their stem softness and leafiness. This season, another option under the Cleancrop™ Brassica System will be available with Sarge short kale. Sarge has been bred for improved agronomic values relative to Kestrel, including softer stems, making it a good option for those seeking a simple system with effective weed control.
Using the appropriate forage brassica combination improves the options available during the growing season for different classes of livestock.
Contact your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative for help formulating a cropping plan including forage brassicas.