Consider growing forage crops for late autumn and winter feeding

24 Jul 2019

Now is the time to plan which forage crops to sow for feeding to livestock this autumn and winter, according to Oliver Seeds’ Rod Bonshor.

“Fast growing crops, such as Winfred forage rape and stubble turnips, need to be in the ground by mid-August and will provide grazing eight to 10 weeks after sowing,” he explains.

Post-Christmas grazing

“Slower growing species, such as kale, are best sown by the end of July. But they will provide post-Christmas grazing right through to March.”

He adds that where brassicas prove difficult to establish, sowing Raptor – a combination of ryegrass and forage rape – can be a viable alternative.

Protein content

“The grass acts as ‘insurance’ against a poor take of the rape, and the sugar content of the grass complements the protein content of the rape. If the weather turns wet, the inclusion of grass also keeps the animals cleaner.

“Again, this is best sown by mid-August. Or, for later drilling, try a mixture of Westerwolds ryegrass and crimson clover, which can be sown until mid-September.”

Autumn reseed

Mr Bonshor says that now is also a good time to check if grass fields are performing as well as expected, or whether they need a complete autumn reseed or overseeding to renovate poor areas.

“Overseeding can be tricky, but autumn is the best time as producers are working with nature – not against it,” he says.

Problem weeds

“It is a good idea to spray off any problem weeds with herbicide well in advance. This will create bare ground where the weeds once grew and where new grasses can germinate.

In difficult overseeding situations, he also urges producers to consider using grass seeds that have been coated with fertiliser.

Root growth

“The ProNitro seed mixture is available, with or without clover, and the coating feeds the seed and not the surrounding grass. This boosts root growth and speeds grass establishment.”