Catch crops offer drought option

Preparing for a summer drought or still catching up from a winter forage shortage, producers can fill feed gaps by sowing drought-tolerant grass mixes, or brassicas.

The redesigned Sinclair McGill Castlepark grass/clover mix includes continental plant types and varieties bred to withstand heat and longer droughts, said Advanta Seed’s Ian Misselbrook.

“This includes tall fescues, normally grown in France and northern Europe as well as tetraploid ryegrasses, cocksfoot, timothy and the white clover blend Tweed,” he said. “The clover fills the mid-summer grazing gap when ryegrasses are less productive. We also recommend grazing hard to keep the ley palatable. In the past, British farms have relied on cocksfoot for drought tolerance, but this is not highly digestible and has a tendency to clump.”

Drilling fast-growing brassicas, such as stubble turnips, forage rape or the rape/kale hybrid Swift, between now and August will yield a crop in 8-10 weeks, said Paul Billings from British Seed Houses. “Swift will supply two grazings for all classes of livestock. However, it’s important to used seed treated for flea beetle, as, due to the amount of oilseed rape drilled this year, huge numbers can devastate a brassica crop overnight.”