18 August 1995

Wait till September to sow catch crops

LIVESTOCK producers considering sowing catch crops such as stubble turnips to extend forage supplies should wait until early September when there is likely to be more moisture in the ground.

The advice comes from Somerset-based Kingshay Farming Trust project manager Charlotte Carter and is based on experience growing forage crops at Kingshays Henley Manor, Crewkerne.

"Theres is still time to grow forage crops to get growth well into the autumn, but wait until early September when there should be more soil moisture for germination," said Ms Carter.

For best establishment in dry conditions she advises direct drilling to place the seed in contact with available soil moisture. It was then important to roll the seed-bed to minimise moisture loss. Ring rollers would seal seed slots more effectively than flat rollers.

The ability to graze the crop in late autumn would depend on sowing into free-draining soil that was less prone to poaching. "Direct drilling will help reduce risk of poaching but choice of field is also important," said Ms Carter.

When the crop was ready to graze, cattle should be introduced gradually to avoid risk of bloat. She also advised grazing along the longest face of the crop so the cattle didnt trample it.

"They should just be able to reach under the fence but no further," she said.

Ms Carter said that at £31.50/t dry matter the variable costs of growing stubble turnips compared favourably with those of other forage crops.

Stubble turnips are helping to eke out silage stocks at Mike Frankpitts 150ha (370-acre) Rix Farm, Tiverton, Devon. He has also grown kale, which is later maturing, so extending the grazing season (see p39).