Peter and Joc Kinney
Culverden

“Fodder beet would have to be the single biggest thing that’s changed the way we have farmed since I have been farming,”

Fodder beet is the single biggest game changer Peter Kinney has witnessed in his farming career, one he believes is exciting for both the beef and dairy industries.

Peter and his wife Joc have three irrigated farms at Culverden – a dairy farm milking 1,200 cows, a dairy support property primarily focused on wintering cows and grazing young stock, as well as growing supplements, and a recently purchased property they have converted to a beef fattening block.

Early adopters of beet for their area, the Kinneys having tried a number of different beet varieties over the years and now mainly use SF Brigadier™ for grazing and SF LIFTA™ for both grazing and harvesting.

“For grazing reasons, especially for the young stock, we are using lower dry matter Brigadier™ for ease of grazing. It’s a more upright, out-of-the-ground, high-utilisation plant,” Peter says.

SF LIFTA™, which is a medium to high dry matter plant, is harvested and carted to the dairy farm for autumn and spring, where it is fed in the paddock.

“We also use it for a grazing option on the run-off. It’s a universal plant. We don’t graze it with young stock as it’s a harder bulb to eat and younger animals struggle to graze it at a high enough intake to do well on it. We use it for adult cattle only.”

They are also exploring SF LIFTA™ as more of a grazing option for the future because of its higher yield potential. They have found it is more yield consistent than other varieties.

“The key benefits are that it’s an energy-dense feed. Our main aim of wintering is to gain body condition score in cows. The targets are far more easily achieved with fodder beet than any other feed,” he says.

“Utilisation is always high. Even if we have a wet winter, utilisation stays right up there. For feed budgeting reasons and fully feeding cows, it always happens.”

Another benefit of the beet is that it’s snow safe. “Kale and rape are not very snow safe and we can cop the odd snow. It has affected the yield of a kale crop here. It’s not common, but we see it as a way of safeguarding against the risk.

“The yield potential [of beet] is so much higher, so you need a lesser amount of area to grow a certain amount of feed on.”

A further benefit Peter sees, though it has yet to be fully quantified, is the potential to leach less nitrate on a beet system. “Being a higher carbohydrate plant it potentially has less nitrate leaching from the stock grazing it.”

He has found the beet has high resistance to pests and, once established, is a robust plant.

Like anything, growing beet presents its challenges. They have had some problems with soil being exposed to wind while the crops are getting established. Careful management and monitoring of crops, when it comes to feeding, is also vital from an animal health point of view.

“Like anything that’s good, there’s some big hooks on the back if you don’t obey the rules to capture those benefits.”

“Seed Force™ have the technical support and they’ve also come to the party with any issues. If there have been any, they’ve fronted, which is good.

“Fodder beet would have to be the single biggest thing that’s changed the way we have farmed since I have been farming,” Peter says. “It’s changed what we can achieve in our farming systems and it’s not just a small change, it’s a major game changer, so that’s quite exciting.”

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