Peter and Linda Harper
Otorohanga

“our preference of beet variety is SF Brigadier™. It’s by far the best of varieties we have grown.”

Seed Force™ fodder beet is a new tool for Otorohanga farmer Peter Harper to finish bulls and feed winter dairy grazers.

Peter and his wife Linda farm 840 hectares at Otorohanga in a diverse operation milking 100 cows and rearing 600-800 calves annually in spring. They also sell about 150 service bulls to dairy farmers each year and the balance of cattle generally go to the works, or the 15-month steers are sold in the January sales.

This year the Harpers have put cattle on fodder beet, with 16ha planted in October and November, for the first time.

Peter’s preference of beet variety is SF Brigadier™, which he says is by far the best of the varieties he has grown.

Transitioning the cattle onto the beet proved a challenge, but now that they are eating their full ration of 11-12kg per day the pressure is off.

“Making sure they get their allocated amount is tricky, transitioning takes me 24 days to get them up to 12kg of beet if I’m starting from scratch. If the farmer is milking on fodder beet and then the cows come to me, that’s a whole different proposition because I can start them on 7kg of beet a day.”

The cows love the beet and Peter finds that shifting fences is easier than with some other crops, like kale, which he has grown before.

He is amazed by how little wastage there is with the beet. “They just clean it all up. If they leave anything behind you know you’re feeding them well. The feed utilisation is amazing compared to other crops

“They are starting to do that now and are cranking along.” The plan is to finish and kill or sell them on the spring market, schedule dependent.

“I worked out it is more profitable to turn a $1000 steer into a $1,500 animal than to take on a winter dairy cow grazer at $26/head/week. I am hoping for 1.5kg/day weight gain,” Peter says.

They currently have three mobs on fodder beet – 135 of their own steers and heifers and 250 dairy cow grazers, in two mobs of 110 and 140 cows each.

The Harpers find Seed Force™ territory manager Ben Leong’s knowledge invaluable. “Ben’s excellent, he just knows so much.”

After soil samples they were initially told the pH was low and the P average, and beet would not do well. “But Ben said to whack the lime and recommended fert on and it would be okay and he was right – we got 32 tonnes/ha average yield on the 1st of May, it grew more than I estimated,” Peter says.

“His knowledge of getting ground ready for a vegetable crop would be second to none, I would say, we’re really lucky to have Ben as our rep.”

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