Workshop highlights wide range of forage options

Simon Cutter Workshop

Simon examines a young lucerne crop that will provide high value winter feed for his cattle and sheep

There are many forage crops that can be grown on farms either as a stand alone crop or as a mix, including lucerne, fodder beet, sainfoin, brassicas and red clover. Such diverse forages can be used to minimise the need for grain and other concentrate feeds while maintaining animal performance.

Meeting the requirements for animal production under organic and pasture-fed standards can be more complex than it is for conventionally managed or grain-fed/finished animals. This is because farmers need to grow a mixture of crops, not just grass, to provide a regular supply of energy and protein-rich fodder for their livestock.

Organic farmer and Pasture-Fed Approved Supplier Simon Cutter explained how he grows lucerne, hybrid rape/kale and red clover to raise and finish his cattle and sheep on land just outside Ross-on-Wye.

He said there are moral and financial obligations to produce home-grown forage as this practice is more sustainable (because it does not rely on importing soya), and is more resilient in the face of adverse weather. It also promotes environmental diversity.

Simon’s cattle and sheep are entirely pasture-fed. Over the years he has tested several alternatives forage crops and currently favours lucerne for its high protein content. It can produce excellent silage, and if grown with barley or triticale can provide a well-balanced wholecrop forage to feed in winter.

Another speaker, Tom Tolputt from the Farm Consultancy Group urged farmers to regard themselves as ‘dry matter’ producers. Dry matter is the amount of crop that is left when all the water has been taken out and represents the part the animals will derive their nutrients from.

He said if farmers can maximise the amount of dry matter they grow from every acre of land, they will be able to produce more meat with less bought-in feed.

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