Brassica forage crops produce large yields of high quality, homegrown forage from options that can be fed from early summer through to late winter. They should be considered in any situation where pasture quantity or quality is limiting the potential of livestock.
- Brassicas provide a bulk amount of high quality feed to maximise growth rates and increase the number of stock finished or maintained per hectare.
- A brassica crop provides a break from pasture, decreasing pest levels, eliminating weed problems and with fertiliser helps correct soil fertility problems, resulting in cleaner, higher
- Using brassicas helps avoid parasites and pathogens that cause animal health problems such as facial eczema and ryegrass staggers.
- Brassica crops can increase stock productivity and therefore increase farm profitability.
Like any crop, sound planning and attention to detail is the key to successful brassica production and we have developed some guidelines, developed from many years of trialling and monitoring to help ensure you get the best from your crop.
An establishing brassica forage crop
Planning and preparation
Preparation for a spring planted brassica crop ideally starts in the previous autumn. Soil testing at this point allows time to correct deficiencies that may be present. The optimum pH for brassica is in the range 5.8-6.2, which can take six months to correct with lime. An autumn spray-out of run-out pasture achieves control of clover and perennial weeds. Sowing of an annual or Italian ryegrass provides high yields of quality pasture during the winter break. Consider implementing this approach for next seasons cropping programme.
- Soil test paddocks at least 6-8 weeks prior to sowing
- Apply fertiliser as per specific soil test recommendations
- Aim to control all weeds prior to sowing.
- Sow the most suitable brassica crop for your needs with seed sown approximately 10 mm deep, and a soil temperature of around 10°C and rising.
- Use Ultrastrike/Superstrike treated brassica seed. This is recommended in both cultivated and direct drilling situations to enhance crop establishment and performance.
Grazing and feeding
A feed management plan for crops such as brassicas needs to consider the nutritional, welfare and health needs of the grazing animal; feed management and allocation of the crop and additional supplement; and take preventative action to ensure risks to the environment are addressed. Environmental challenges revolve around reducing leaching of nitrogen and phosphate run-off into waterways and the negative impact on the health of the soils. It is important to check local regional council requirements, regarding winter feeding of crops.
- Crop is utilised more efficiently when long narrow breaks are offered rather than wide breaks.
- Reduce wastage due to trampling by moving the fence once or twice daily rather than offering a few days feed at a time.
- Where practical, begin grazing paddocks at the point furthest from the waterway. Break-feed towards the waterway.
- Fence off a narrow access strip along the length of paddock to access gateways.
- Adjust feed intake to weather conditions. Underfed stock wandering in search of feed adds to the potential soil loss through physical damage and sedimententering waterways.
- Place supplementary feed such as baleage into the paddock at the start of winter when soils are not so wet. Keep well back from waterways to avoid stock congregating near them.
- Look to graze potentially sensitive zones during periods when weather is settled and predicted rainfall is low.
- Keep livestock out of waterways.
- Provide transportable troughs for stock drinking water.
- Back fence stock off land that has already been grazed.
For further information, download our brassica guide via the link below.