Fodder Beet Over the Dry Period

Fodder beet is now becoming the mainstay crop for wintering cows in our area.  Many cows have been pre-transitioned onto this crop while on the milking platform but some of you will be putting cows on the crop for the first time at the start of June.  Follow these steps to avoid hassles:

  • Measure your yield accurately - once you know the yield/ha (i.e. 25 tonne/ha crop), you can calculate your yield per square (two rows per metre square) and yield per linear row metre this would be 2.5kgDM/m2 and 1.25kgDM/linear row metre respectively.
  • Allow at least 1 linear metre/cow at the crop face and at least 5m2 of turning room in the first break.
  • Either drop wires on the permanent fence in the first break to allow a bigger area or scrape bulbs with a front end loader (and feed in paddock or stock pile) to create a headland.
  • Best to calculate allocation in linear metres to be fed - i.e. if offering 3kg a cow from a 30 tonne crop this would be 2 linear metres or 1 square metre/cow.  To be accurate you will have to offer part rows - i.e. your live strand will have a dog leg in it at some point.
  • Cows will comfortably graze 18 inches under a single strand wire.  Make sure that the wire sits back 12 inches from the row you are looking to graze.  It must be very high voltage!
  • Always feed your supplement or grass first and give a gap of 2 hours before shifting onto break.  Cows must get a minimum of 2kgDM of "something chewy" in their diet.  This may be either straw, balage, silage or grass and must be maintained through the whole period while on fodder beet.
  • For the first couple of days, drive over bulbs with tractor tyres or roller to break up bulbs to get cow eating it.
  • Start at 1kgDM/day and increase intakes by 1kgDM every second day until fully transitioned (7kgDM).  This take a minimum of 14 days.  Once cows have reached intakes of 7kgDM FB they are unlikely to suffer acidosis but further intakes up to 10-11kgDM total (ad-lib) must still occur at 1kg every second day.
  • If you are going to get acidosis this will tend to occur at days 7-10!!  It is critical to remain restrained with allocation over this time.  Do not let beet bulbs accumulate while still shifting breaks forward.
  • Once cows have got over 10kgDM/day and looking to ad-lib feed there should be 20-25% of beet left from the previous day when shifting wire and about 5% from the previous day before that.  Cows will always eventually clean this up.  This is the true definition of ad-lib on beet.
  • With a high ME and utilisation at around 95%, condition gain on fodder beet can be rapid.  Monitor cow condition (BCS) to avoid them becoming over-fat as this can predispose them to metabolic diseases in the spring.  Ensure you are not feeding more than required!