John and Mary Lindsay
“I went to town this week and I can see fodder beet coming through on farms that haven’t had it before.”
When trailblazing farmer John Lindsay drives to town, it’s obvious he’s not the only one who sees the profit potential fodder beet brings to farming.
“I went to town this week and I can see fodder beet coming through on farms that haven’t had it before,” says John, who’s been feeding SF Brigadier fodder beet to his sheep for five years.
The Lindsays farm almost 6000 Wairere Romney breeding ewes and 1800 ewe hogget replacements on 1418ha at Dipton West. His use of fodder beet has attracted interest and in conjunction with Seed Force, the Lindsays recently held a fodder beet field day to share what they’d learned with others.
“We’ve got a large amount of animals on the crop around the farm – deer, cattle and sheep, but the day was promoted around our use of the beet with sheep,” says John. Despite snow the day before the event, over 60 farmers attended.
“Like any new thing you start off in a relatively small way. The more crops I have grown, the closer to the blueprint I have got and we’ve gone from 2ha to 62ha of fodder beet planted last year,” says John.
He says his old lamb fattening system was taking too long and that’s why he decided to try something different. He moved to planting swedes as a winter crop and followed this with another swede variety before returning the paddock to grass. “That was working well and it was feeding the lambs well but it was quite expensive.” The second swede variety also came with problems, diseases and unreliable yields, he said.
During the field day there was interest in how John’s ewes transition to the crop particularly around the issue of acidosis. “There’s been all sorts of problems with acidosis, particularly with cattle in transition, and I was always nervous about that for the sheep. There’s nothing worse than losing them. But the need to transition sheep for me was non-existent.” One precaution he took was to make sure they had a belly full of grass before putting them in.
Another reason for choosing SF Brigadier is that the quality of feed produced is sufficient on its own, says John. Supplementation with hay or baleage and the associated expense and extra work isn’t necessary. “We seem to be busy all the time. We didn’t need to be feeding baleage as well and getting nothing else done”.
John says with fodder beet more of his ewes can be wintered, allowing higher stocking rates, resulting in more mouths to keep control of fast growing spring grass, and thereby maximising production. The stock also seem more content on fodder beet. The cost is also attractive – 10 cents per/kg DM to grow.
The Lindsay’s current system for forage crop has a balance of swedes and fodder beet. They haven’t gone fully to fodder beet because it needs to be sown earlier than swedes, which would take too much pasture out during peak need. The fodder beet is sown September/October whereas swedes can be sown in December.
John says a good swede crop can produce 14-15 tonne DM/ha but last year his SF Brigadier averaged 25 tonne DM/ha. Given that’s all the sheep are getting, he breaks the mob down into small sizes so they all get a feed. Before the introduction of SF Brigadier fodder beet, the Lindsay’s average lambing percentage was 145 per cent, but in the past five years they have averaged 158 per cent.
As an early adopter, John’s pleased when he looks out his car window and notices more farmers incorporating fodder beet into their wintering system. “I can see new seasons crops are mostly in the ground and are just starting to come through.”