Skyfall – forage of choice for Cornish sheep & cattle
Keen to try new crops, sheep and beef farmer Philip Sims was interested to see how Limagrain UK’s relatively new bounce back brassica Skyfall performed on the farm and what sort of feed it provided.

Philip Sims, his wife Susan and son Robert run a flock of Texel cross sheep and a 35-cow suckler herd on the 170-acre unit at St Wenn, Bodmin in Cornwall.

Philip Sims sheep and beef farmer with his Skyfall bounce back brassicaLand reaches 213m (700’) above sea level. Most of the land grows good quality forages, predominantly grass for silage and hay, and also grazing, plus maize and fodder crops.

Philip, who moved to the farm in 1956 with his parents, looks to grow as much feed for the livestock on the farm and reduce their reliance on bought in concentrates.

So extending the grazing period and the portfolio of forages is always on the cards here. And introducing a range of forages places less reliance on grass, should it be a very hot, dry summer and grass growth stalls.

Keen to try new crops, Philip was interested to see how Limagrain’s relatively new bounce back brassica Skyfall performed on the farm and what sort of feed it provided. So, in April 2021, he sowed three hectares (about seven acres) of seed into a maize stubble. Nitrogen fertiliser was applied at a rate of 200kg a hectare.

Six weeks later, at the end of May, 100% of the crop had germinated and the plants were 15cm (6”) tall and fit for grazing.

“We opened the Skyfall crop to a group of 60 ewe lambs,” says Philip. “The crop was part of an eight hectare (20 acre) field. What surprised me so much was that the sheep always headed for the Skyfall out of preference. They did very well on it.”

Beef cattle fed on Skyfall bounce back brassicaOnce the crop was grazed off after about two weeks, it was shut up and left to re-grow – or ‘bounce-back’. True to its word, the crop was ready for grazing again a few weeks later.

“We repeated this a few times and in June we grazed the cattle on it,” adds Philip. “They also loved it – are loving it – it must be some sweetness in the leaves? But whatever it is, Skyfall is very palatable to both sheep and cattle, and they did well on it.”

The crop was then followed with an autumn grass reseed.

“Limagrain’s adviser Graham Parnell suggested we might want to add a fertilizer to the crop after a few rounds of grazing,” added Philip. “But we were happy enough with its natural growth. It just doesn’t stop growing. It’s a win-win really.”Robert Sims beef and sheep farmer Cornwall with Skyfall leaves

So pleased with the performance of Skyfall, Philip is growing more. “It certainly provides a good fresh bite in spring and summer and adds to our grazing forages, taking the pressure off grass.”

BOUNCE BACK BRASSICA BENEFITS – SKYFALL

• High protein forage
• Fast-growing – normal 10 weeks from sowing to grazing, but less in this case
• Leafy and palatable grazing crop for cattle and sheep
• Produces between 30 and 35 tonnes/ha
• Deep rooting so withstands dry conditions
• Regrowth potential – bounces back after first round of grazing and provides a second crop.
• Break crop – short-circuits weeds and pest problems in grassland

More information

Learn more about Skyfall bounce back brassica here or contact your usual seed merchant for availability

Download the LG Skyfall bounceback brassica growers guide below

Skyfall bounce back brassica brochure front cover

Skyfall – the bounce back brassica that keeps on growing
Limagrain UK’s bounce back brassica Skyfall is the perfect answer to ensuring that a highly nutritious leafy forage crop is available for grazing sheep and cattle in summer through to autumn.

Sown between May and July, it will be ready for grazing in 12 to 14 weeks. And after the first round of grazing, it can be closed up for six to eight weeks while it grows back, ready for grazing again later in the season.

“Its deep narrow roots allow it to thrive in drier soils through summer,” says Limagrain’s forage crop manager John Spence. “This, and the crop’s exceptional vigour supports regrowth and a second grazing crop. In field trials Skyfall produced between 30 and 35 tonnes/ha of a palatable soft-leaved forage where the crop was sown in July.”

Skyfall is an ideal break crop too before a grass reseed or in a mixed arable rotation.

Sheep farmer and contractor Tim Cains was an early pioneer, sowing a crop in the first season that Limagrain introduced it. He used it for his lambs, and they devoured it first time round, and second time round six weeks later when he finished them off the crop at 40kg liveweight.

Tim Cains from Bridgnorth runs a 500-ewe flock – 300 Welsh mules and 200 Scottish Blackface hill ewes. Lambing starts in late March and lambs are reared for finishing from September.

“This puts a lot of pressure on our grassland,” says Tim, who combines his sheep enterprise with a mobile sheep dipping business.

“We lamb the mules indoors then turn the ewes and lambs out onto grassland. We’ve 130 acres of grassland for the sheep, and finish around 500 lambs, keeping 120 ewe lambs for replacements.” Tim Cains - Skyfall Bounce Back Brassica grower

Lambs are weaned from the second week of July, and in 2020 Tim moved them straight on to the bounce back brassica Skyfall. The crop’s proven track record of great growth potential through summer and the ability to ‘bounce back’ appealed to him.

“We wanted to ease the pressure on the grazed grass and reduce reliance on bought in feed, should the grass be in short supply later in summer,” says Tim.

“We got 24kg of seed – treated with Start-Up to promote germination and even establishment, for our 13-acre ley (5.3ha). I drilled it in early May and by the time I moved 300 lambs on to it at the end of July the leaves were so big we couldn’t see the lambs. There’s not much bulb, but plenty of leaf.”

And it went down a treat. “The lambs loved it, and devoured the crop in three weeks, grazing it right down. We moved them off in mid-August onto a red clover sward and supplemented their diet with some creep.

“I then waited to see if the crop did what it was meant to do and re-grow enough for another grazing. I have to admit to being a bit skeptical. We’d only had three weeks grazing off the crop so far, so its value depended on a re-growth. We needed another three weeks of grazing to make it viable; to justify growing it,” he adds.

It wasn’t a very long wait before Tim knew this crop ‘had legs’. Within 10 days, regrowth was about 30cm. “I took photos of the crop in mid-August as I couldn’t believe the speed of the regrowth. It was exceptional.”

Sheep on Skyfall bounce back brassicaAbout 270 lambs were moved back on to the Skyfall at the beginning of October and Tim pulled finished lambs off the crop at around 40kg liveweight. “They sold well – the market was fairly strong last autumn. All bar 56 of the smallest lambs were sold in October; something we’ve never achieved in the past. We’re normally aiming for the Christmas market, and don’t really ‘push’ the lambs. We didn’t have to with this crop, but we got to finishing weights much earlier.

He admits that this sort of bounce back brassica is a new one for him. “But it worked really well. Lambs reached finishing weights more cost-effectively, and it gave the grass a break too.

“And I gave the crop a fair test as we used some fairly unproductive permanent pasture to grow it. It wasn’t very fertile ground and maybe not the best choice to try out this new crop, but it performed far better than I expected.”

Plans were to follow the brassica with a herbal ley in autumn but this was put back to spring 2021 to make the most of the regrowth. “I’d still got 56 lambs grazing it in late November.

“Maximising home-grown forage production is crucial and fine tuning the cropping rotation will improve output,” says Tim. “We grow 20 acres of turnips for over-wintering ewes and high energy fodder beet for later finishing lambs.

“We also need to up the grassland management but establishing new leys is challenging here as the stone in the soil makes ploughing very difficult. So being able to burn off grass and drill a brassica in directly then burning off again before planting a herbal ley saves time and machinery. It also helps clean the old grasses out ready for the new ley.

“A rotation of brassica, grass and roots seems to work well for us. And the regrowth track record of this brassica means I will aim to sow it earlier this year – I might get even more from it through summer and autumn!”

 

 

More information

Learn more about Skyfall bounce back brassica here or contact your usual seed merchant for availability

Download the LG Skyfall bounceback brassica growers guide below

Skyfall bounce back brassica brochure front cover