29 March 1996


By James de Havilland

WITH a potential of producing up to 75 t/ha at 22-25%DM kale is not a crop to ignore. History has established it as a cost-effective dairy feed, but baling and wrapping it to form "Kaleage" is a relatively new idea.

With this in mind, Welsh farmer Tom Davies, based near Penparc, Cardigan, decided to give the forage a try by cautiously growing 1.4ha (3.5 acres) of kale for baling. As he used the last of the bales, however, his verdict on the idea is clear: "Kaleage is a top quality home grown feed and I will be making more next season."

The trial field was sown with kale on May 29 – a first cut of grass silage having already been produced from the chosen area.

A light application of 20:10:10 fertiliser was applied to the kale soon after establishment, with varieties Pinfold, Keeper, Hereford, Prova, Bittern and Maris Kestrel being sown as a wider part of Mr Daviess trial.

"I thought I should try different kale varieties to see which did the best on my ground," he explains.

Encouraged by the success of his first crop – although still undecided on which variety will serve him best – Mr Davies plans to make Kaleage on 4ha (10 acres) this season.

"I drilled a crop of rye behind barley this autumn for spring grazing and I will then use this field for kale," he says. "Once the kale is harvested the area will be sown down to grass. It has to be said that kale fits in well with my grass rotation and is a key attraction of the system."

At present 84ha (210 acres) of the 97ha (240-acre), 80-cow dairy farm is down to grass with the remaining land growing barley for feed.

"Establishment costs for kale are not prohibitive, particularly when put against the value of the harvested crop," says Mr Davies who employs a contractor for all major operations.

The bulk of the kale was mown on the September 12 and baled within two days. Agros inoculant was applied as a liquid at baling at a rate of 2.0 litres/t – the same rate as Mr Davies uses for his grass silage.

"We had the bales wrapped the same day with extra wrapping being added because I was worried the kale stalks would pierce the film. We actually had no problems but took the precaution because of the crops value."

So did his first season with baled Kaleage go without a hitch?

"One mistake we made was stacking the bales three high. The bales weighed between 800-900kg, and those on the bottom were squashed. Next time around I will only stack two high," says Mr Davies.

But that is about the only problem he had; the contractor responsible for the baling and mowing of the crop having no difficulties in the field either.

This season will see closer tabs being kept on costs and yields, the small area of crop grown last year making accurate costing difficult.

"We took the kale off the headlands in August because we were short of feed so I am not too sure of the total crop yield we achieved," explains Mr Davies. "Growing a number of different varieties also makes any total yield figures misleading."

Mr Daviess enthusiasm for kaleage is matched by that of his cows – "They eat every last bit of it."

The cows diet is predominantly grass silage, the first and second cuts being clamped and reserved for the dairy herd. Subsequent cuts are baled and fed to the youngstock.

This year the grass had a 42% dry matter, 11.7ME and D-value of 72.9. The Kaleage first cut, taken from the headlands in Aug, was 20.4% dry matter, with a D-value of 72 and protein of 24. The pH was 4.1.

Around 4.5kg of soya, fishmeal, barley and concentrate home mixed feed is fed per cow each day. A butterfat of 4.28% and protein of 3.39% were averaged throughout January.

Mr Davies believes that if Kaleage was to form a wider part of the herds diet, the feed rations could be reduced. &#42

&#8226 Maximum yield: 75 t/ha fresh wt at 22-25%DM.

&#8226 Crude protein: 22-24%.

&#8226 Digestible crude protein: 17-18%.

&#8226 D-value: 70%.

&#8226 Metabolisable energy: 11-12 MJ/kg DM.

&#8226 Target pH: 4.25 or below.

Kaleage – a crop with a future? Pioneering Welsh farmer Tom Davies (left) is convinced of the merits of ensiled kale, and will be expanding his acreage this year.