11 August 1995

Dry matter yields put to test

DRY MATTER yields of different autumn forage crops varied by 30% in farm-scale projects conducted by the Kingshay Farming Trust.

The projects compared six varieties of forage turnips and a rape/turnip mix over three years, and established grazing preferences, crude protein contents, management practices and production costs.

Results were converted into estimated milk and meat values. Average differences of £818/ha (£331/acre) in estimated milk values and £650/ha (£263/acre) in estimated meat values, occurred between the highest and lowest achieving varieties.

Martin Hutchinson of Kingshay says: "If producers plant catch crops now, they could get growth well into the autumn.

"Yields of 4.94t DM/ha are possible at total costs of as little as £31.50/t DM, which compares favourably with grazed grass," says Mr Hutchinson.

Dry matter production for different varieties peaked at various stages of the grazing season, making some varieties more suitable than others for grazing at certain times of the autumn and winter.

"Two varieties of stubble turnips – one early and one late maturing – could be planted. These would produce peak dry matters consecutively, extending the autumn grazing period."

"This could be followed by a rape/turnip mix to mature in early December and kale which would be later again," he says.