Fodder Beet Establishment & Management

It is important to get a soil test at least six months before sowing fodder beet, as it is very sensitive to low pH levels in the soil, with a pH of at least 6 being required and ideally 6.2. Any soil nutrient correction should be made prior to sowing.

Paddocks should be sprayed with glyphosate and a contact insecticide (e.g. chlorpyrifos) prior to working. Soils should ideally be free-draining and relatively free of weeds. The soils should be worked into a fine tilth before sowing to allow for even sowing depth.

A general fertiliser recommendation is: pre-sowing; Cropzeal 16N at 150-200 kg/ha plus NaCl (salt) at 350 kg/ha. Sulphur, boron and magnesium may be beneficial on some soil types. It is important when choosing the paddock to ensure that there has been no recent history of chemical use as fodder beet is very sensitive to certain chemicals.

A “stale seedbed” technique to remove weed competition is best. This is where a seedbed is prepared at least 4-6 weeks before planting, and germinating weeds are sprayed with a non residual herbicide immediately before planting. Depending on location, sowing between late September and early November is generally recommended. Earlier sowings risk vernalisation causing bolting, while later sowing reduces yield potential, and germination may be hindered in areas prone to dry summers.

 

A precision drill is recommended for sowing fodder beet. This will place the seed at the correct depth (2 cm) and space plants accurately ensuring the correct sowing rate.

Due to slow establishment and the time taken to form a leaf canopy, early and timely weed and insect control is essential; please contact your local seed retailer or chemical representative for more details.

Some thought is required to the practicalities of feeding fodder beet. Starting a transition programme requires some planning as it is critical to restrict access to fodder beet. This may be done by “lifting” fodder beet and feeding this out in increasing amounts to stock grazing pasture. Transition programmes utilising fodder beet in situ may require a headland to be left without crop at sowing or a headland to be “lifted” prior to feeding to allow animals access to a small amount of the crop. The ability to “drop” a fence adjacent to the crop is also a strategy worthy of consideration.

Large crops may be problematic to feed off due to the high stocking rate required to meet allocation targets. This has practical implications for stock traffic through gateways and tractor movements for supplementary feed. For sheep and deer, particularly on restricted allocations, break dimensions meeting allocation targets may be too small to feed all animals at once and a system where two different mobs/herds graze the same break at different times (morning and afternoon) may be useful.

For some fodder beet chemicals there are considerable grazing withholding periods. All chemicals, especially fungicides need to have their withholding periods recorded so they can be reviewed if grazing plans are brought forward.

Key tips:

  • Diet Planning – Prior to feeding a fodder beet crop to livestock, a diet plan needs to be developed detailing both the targeted volume of daily intake and the percentage of this total that fodder beet will make up.
  • High/Ad lib Intake – Where the expectation of gains in liveweight (i.e. steers) or body condition (in dairy cows) is high and the supply of crop is non limiting, high/ad lib intakes are often targeted where animals have access to some crop and supplement at all times. Note – a careful transition phase will be required.
  • Restricted Intake – In some situations restricted fodder beet diets may be more appropriate. Restrictions in some cases may result in periods of hunger and controlling intake is paramount. Key considerations for restricted feeding are accurate feed allocation, keeping stock full with alternative fibre supplements, the use of double fences or “on-off” grazing to reduce the risk of breakouts. Transition is still critical when restricted feeding is desirable.
  • Choice of Supplement – During the transition phase and once target allocations have been met, supplement plays an important role in the diet. The supplement chosen needs to be palatable, close to the crop face and easily accessed.
Pre Drilling Action
6 - 12 months prior Soil test. Take corrective action where necessary. A PH or at least 6.0 is required, and ideally 6.2
0-6 months prior Use previous soil test to correct general nutrient deficiency
12 weeks prior Make contact with local seed retailer, drill contractors, fertiliser spreaders and spray contractors
Order seed and make all aware of intentions and drilling date
6 weeks prior Spray with glyphosate and any other chemical that may be required (be aware of previous crop chemical residues)
2-5 weeks prior
Work paddock to a fine and firm seedbed and add fertiliser
Key nutrients for beet include Potassium (K), Nitrogen (N), Sodium (Na), Boron (B) Magnesium (Mg)
1 day prior Spray with glyphosate and insecticide

 

Drilling

Action

 Drill  Use a precision drill with true mono-germ seed. Recommended rates are to drill at 80,000 seeds/ha for grazing and
100,000 seeds/ha for lifting

 

Post Drilling Action
0-1 week post sowing Chemical application of post sow/pre-emerge chemical
0-3 weeks post sowing
Monitor crop for cotyledon weeds and insects, and treat accordingly with advice from your seed representative or retailer
3-5 weeks post sowing  Apply side dressing of nitrogen, approximately 50 kg N/ha
3-6 weeks post sowing Ensure that the weed and insect control programme set up by your local seed representative or retailer is followed through
6 weeks post sowing When applying herbicides from this date forward be aware of grazing withholding periods as they may limit early grazing
options (some herbicides grazing withholding periods can be as long as 100 days)
6-12 weeks post sowing Monitor for aphids and thistles
Start roguing any bolting plants
12-16 weeks post sowing Consider another application of K and or N at this time
Consider a fungicide application
16 weeks onwards
Continue to rogue any new bolters, ensure these are completely removed from the paddock

 This is a guide only. Significant regional differences will change the applications and timings of fertiliser. Always seek further technical advice.

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