Same forage shortage, but different reasons

Two months ago, forage shortage was a concern following the long spell of dry weather. This week, tremendous and continued rainfall has resulted in water-logged fields and sodden ground. With some maize crops lost to flooding, and silage cuts on hold as fields are too wet, some farmers could be facing serious forage shortages for different reasons now, unless recovery plans are made.

Livestock grazed outdoors in these wet conditions will cause more poaching and sward damage and pastures may be more in need of autumn renovation or even a complete reseed.

Where flooding has killed off grass or reduced yields, a solution to boost late autumn grass yields is to add in 3kg/acre of fast-growing Westerwolds ryegrasses to any reseeding mixture, as soon as it is dry enough to get onto land.

The good news is there is still plenty of time to sow catch crops like stubble turnips and forage rape, or even mixtures of the two. Stubble turnip seed can be drilled or broadcast into cereal stubble, to produce a crop ready for grazing 12 weeks later. Alternatively, to gain a headstart, broadcast seed into the standing cereal crop about 10 days before harvest.

Assess the stubble turnip crop a month later and if leaves are showing signs of yellowing, apply some high nitrogen fertiliser.

Forage rape is a fast growing high protein catch crop and will yield 2-2.5t/acre DM. It is more winter hardy than stubble turnips, so can provide post-Christmas winter feed. Ensure varieties grown have good powdery mildew resistance.

Crops of arable silage sown in April, will now be ready to cut and bale. Mixes like those containing forage peas and barley are a source of home-grown protein and starch and will be a welcome addition to feed rations this winter.

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