Fodder beet promises high yield potential

By Dairy News

FODDER BEET can be an attractive option for dairy farmers with yields of up to 20 to 30 tonnes of dry matter per hectare, according to a report by 2014 Nuffield scholar Aubrey Pellett.

“The attractiveness of growing fodder beet is its high yield potential,” Mr Pellett said.

“When grown successfully, yields of 20 to 30 tonnes of dry matter (DM) per hectare can be achieved.

For this reason, it has grown in popularity in New Zealand since 2007, where it has been used to supplement lactating cows and as a winter feed source for dry cows and young stock.

Along with high yields the characteristics of fodder beet include:

■ A high energy feed at approximately 12 MJ / kg DM.

■ Low protein levels of 13 per cent.

■ Low fibre levels of less than 20 per cent.

■ High sugar content making the crop very palatable.

■ In New Zealand the potential for fodder beet is being assessed by a Beet Profit Partnership funded program.

They have reported:

■ Average yield of 18 200 kg DM per hectare (range 11 657 — 27 800).

■ Average cost to grow of NZ $2480 per hectare (range $1865 — $3451).

■ An average cost of production of 14 cents per kg DM grown 
(range 8–26 cents).

Mr Pellett said rye-grass was likely to remain the base of the Australian dairy grazing system. The ability to speed up improved cultivar development at reduced cost is an opportunity to place more emphasis on selecting grasses that perform best in Australian conditions, rather than the broader Australia and New Zealand marketplace.

“The inoculation of the best performing cultivars with novel endophytes will boost pasture production and animal performance,” Mr Pellet said.

“Pastures that persist for longer will allow a targeted selection of under-performing pastures to be renovated lifting overall farm feed production.”

Mr Pellet said tactical use of fodder beet could increase overall farm feed production at a comparatively low cost of production.

As new breeding technologies enhanced rye-grass performance, the widespread use of a pasture index in Australia will result in the best performing pastures for different needs being demanded.

Mr Pellet said plant breeders would be encouraged to focus research efforts on even more profitable cultivars as the index drives cultivars commercial success.