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24-09-2015

Harvested Sugar Beet One of the Most Cost Effective Feeds

Real cost of forages should be a key driver for your business. However, to determine the ‘real value’ purchasing decisions should be based on a range of factors. Quality and utilisation are considerations that will help determine the true value of forages fed. Rather than purchasing on cents per kilogram of dry matter, the quality (MJME/kgDM) and utilisation (as a %) of that feed should be calculated to highlight the true cost and expressed in c/kgDM consumed or c/MJME. This will then allow all potential feed options to be compared on their specific attributes and the best option(s) selected that will complement each other in a mixed ration.

One of the most cost effective, high quality feed options to consider is SF SUGA™ beet. While being part of the species that fodder beet also belongs to, sugar beet differs in its attributes. Bred specifically for mechanical harvesting, sugar beet is much more uniform in its appearance than fodder beet which has direct benefits for harvesting. While fodder beet can be harvested, this can pose issues such as excessive ‘harvest loss’, which can be directly attributed to plant uniformity and crown height. With SUGA™ beet these harvest losses are minimised, most notably in the topping phase of harvest. The bulb shape and size of SUGA™ beet helps ensure a cleaner harvest than fodder beet which are often varied in their size. The aim for any mechanical harvesting of beet is to maximise returns by removing all leaf material but leaving the bulb fully intact.

The key benefits of harvested SUGA™ beet are its consistent quality of 12MJME/kgDM and high utilisation of above 95% regardless of conditions. Sugar beet can be a versatile feed option fitting into a range of feeding systems and timings. With low protein bulbs, it combines well with spring grass production and can be fed whole or chopped depending on your system. It also has the ability to store longer than fodder beet due to its higher DM%. Many farmers are utilising SUGA™ beet in their systems now as a high-energy source with real production benefits. Uses are varied but typical uses are 5 kgDM sugar beet fed during lactation in a dairy system or higher levels fed out on pasture to dry cows or R2 steers balanced with high quality pasture. Its quality can substitute more expensive alternatives in a daily ration. Whether purchased or grown on farm, this flexibility is one of its key advantages.

Another key benefit SUGA™ beet has over fodder beet is its higher dry matter percentage leading to harvestable yield advantages, transport benefits and longer storability. If grown on farm rather than purchased this has huge implications on cost as the higher the harvestable yield the lower the cost per kilogram of dry matter. The logistics of cartage are also benefited with the higher bulb DM% for sugar beet, for example; carting 30 tonne fresh weight of beet in a truck and trailer equates to 5.4 tDM for a load of fodder beet at 18%DM vs. 6.9 tDM of sugar beet at 23%DM which is a 30% advantage for sugar beet in every load. The benefit is even greater if the SUGA™ beet DM% is higher, which is common.

Unlike many beet options SF SUGA™ beet seed is still available for planting this spring and there are mechanical harvesters in many regions nationwide. You should be discussing your likely requirements with your contactor now to ensure enough is planted this spring to meet likely demand.

For more information on SF SUGA™ talk to Seed Force.