4 August 1995

Stretch the grazing time

FORAGE catch crops drilled after cereals will provide extra late autumn grazing, or silage, for stock. But poor establishment and poaching damage from strip-grazing of late-sown crops, such as stubble turnips, gives existing grass swards the potential to yield higher than any catch crop.

Advice comes from Wilts-based Genus consultant Neil Adams.

As an alternative to stubble turnips, he advises drilling Italian ryegrass after cereals. It extends the grazing season and ease pressure on winter forage stocks.

Robin Hill of Cotswold Root Seeds Direct says kale planted after June tends to grow only about a foot high, providing little bulk. But that stubble turnips planted after cereals on suitable land can be ready for grazing in 10 weeks provided the crop has sufficient moisture for germination.

He advises larger-topped varieties of stubble turnips such as Vollenda are grown as grazing for dairy cows. For sheep stubble turnip and forage rape mixtures provide a higher protein.

Minimal cultivations for turnips grown after cereals were best. "Scratch the surface to provide a seed-bed, which does not need to be deep, and drill or broadcast the seed," he says.

Forage rye offers an alternative catch crop after cereals, especially when forage maize is to be grown in the field the following year, says ADAS national ruminant nutritionist Bruce Cottrill.

Forage rye can be drilled after ploughing in September or early October to provide spring grazing three weeks earlier than Italian ryegrass – from March in some areas, he says.

But he advises producers short of forage consider the cost of ploughing and seed before drilling. The crop could prove too expensive for sheep and suckler cows. Ploughing up a good ley was unlikely to be economic, for forage rye was a short-term crop. It could be more cost-effective to include a forage replacer such as maize gluten in the winter diet.