Successful foray into fodder beet for East Lothian farmer
The challenges of dry summers and increasing input prices have tempted one East Lothian beef farmer into trying out fodder beet for finishing his beef cattle. 


And Anderson Waddell has no regrets, and for now, he’s committed to a crop each year. In May 2023, his contractors sowed six hectares of plant breeder Limagrain’s Robbos fodder beet and lifted about 120 tonnes per hectare fresh weight (50t/acre) of the crop in November. He’s recorded good intakes of this high energy feed and found an improvement in the finished cattle.

Anderson runs the 150-hectare beef and arable family farm at Pencaitland, East Lothian, 14 miles southeast of Edinburgh. He buys about 90 six-month old male calves, mainly from one farmer, between October and December each year. Most are pure Charolais, and the rest – about 25% – are Limousin.

These calves go out to grass the following spring at around 300kg liveweight and are then housed from 430kg to finishing weights of 650kg to 700kg.

Indoors, cattle get a diet of grass silage and homegrown barley in troughs which this year has been mixed with chopped fodder beet.

“By October each year I can have about 280 cattle on the farm, so I need a reliable source of high quality feed,” he says, adding that the dry summers have knocked back silage yields and increasing input prices have affected the cost of growing barley.

“So I was keen to look at alternative home grown feeds to eke out supplies of silage and reduce my reliance on feed barley. I am to be self-sufficient in feed supplies.”

Many friends in the area grow fodder beet so Anderson asked around for some tips and took the recommendation from his seed merchant Dods of Haddington.

“The reliability and consistency of fodder beet yields, and its feed value made it an attractive option, and the variety Robbos, which is tried and tested was recommended and a lot around here grow it,” he adds. “So it seemed like a good option to start with.”

The crop was sown into prepared land following barley. Anderson applied plenty of dung on the stubble prior to ploughing and preparing the seed bad.

“Input costs after sowing were relatively small – just three weed treatments were applied between May and June. Establishment was good and despite some dry conditions, the crop kept growing.”

His contractor lifted the crop in November – which Anderson admits was a bit late in view of the wet conditions. “But it yielded well and it’s certainly taken pressure off the silage and barley. Cattle have grown well and they’re killing out better.”

He wants to improve the chopping equipment – last winter he used a Ritchie Root bucket feeder, which was not ideal. “I’ve still a bit to learn with growing and feeding fodder beet but it’s just what I needed in the diet and it’s cost-effective,” he adds.

“And I also have plenty of organic matter on the field to promote soil health ahead of the next crop of spring barley that will be drilled in May. So, fodder beet is giving me just what I wanted from a forage crop – it’s a win-win for now.”

Find out more about Robbos fodder beet here and download our latest UK trial results for fodder beet.

Don’t forget about Fodder Beet!

With feed costs continuing to rise, why not consider growing a crop of Fodder beet?

Yielding between 80-100 tonnes of fresh feed per hectare, growing a crop can help reduce your winter feed purchases. It’s not too late to drill, early crops are usually drilled early April but this year’s weather means many crops won’t be drilled until end of the month or even into the first week of May.

Later drilling may also help reduce bolter numbers. You should try to drill 100 – 110,000 seeds per hectare, with a view to establish 80 – 100,000 plants per hectare at harvest. Drill widths range from 45-50 cm with seed spacings of 15-20cm. Seedbed conditions are vitally important, with a requirement for a fine, firm seedbed with a soil temperature above 5˚ C.

With rotational options limited in some regions, Fodder beet will allow you to drill barley, or a grass reseed in the spring and also help fill any feed gaps that may have appeared this spring.



Modern fodder beet suits arable rotation and provides essential livestock feed
Brothers Richard and Fred White who run a 650-hectare mixed farm have grown fodder beet as part of their crop rotation for the past 23 years

Brothers Richard and Fred White run a 650-hectare mixed farm, comprising beef, sheep and arable enterprises, in Warwickshire, and they’ve grown fodder beet as part of their crop rotation for the past 23 years, waxing lyrical about its record yields and its part in ticking a lot of boxes in their farming system. Richard White_Fosyma Fodder Beet Grower Testimonial

They began growing Limagrain UK variety Fosyma in 2020 after a recommendation from Wynnstay’s Emma Edwards. This high-dry-matter fodder beet variety is pink-skinned and conical-shaped, and it combines a dry matter content of between 20% and 21% with a relatively high proportion of its root (40%) out of the ground, leaving just 60% in the ground.

Essential part of the rotation

“It fits well into our rotation, usually following and preceding winter wheat,” explains Richard. “We also grow forage maize to feed to the 180-head beef herd, as well as oats and barley, which is also rolled and fed to livestock.”

He and Fred thought Fosyma would do well on their Tamworth-based farm, particularly because they lift and feed fodder beet to their Hereford cattle and sheep during the winter.

It’s medium-depth root reduces the risk of soil contamination and offers flexible feeding and end-use options. Their contractor uses root-lifting equipment, typically harvesting the 23 hectares of the crop that they grow each year. Soil contamination has never been an issue for the Whites.

Market options

They store and feed approximately 50% of the fodder beet to their own sheep and cattle. The other half is sold off farm, for between £45 and £50 per tonne. Some has gone to AD plants, and some has also been sold to feed to deer om a nearby estate.

“They really enjoy fodder beet – as do our cattle and sheep. They all do really well on it.”

LG-Fosyma-fodder-beet-in-storage-clamp_Richard-WhiteProducing home-grown feed and forage is a priority for the brothers, but fodder beet is also a useful break crop. “We typically sow is at the end of April, after applying plenty of manure,” explains Richard, adding that the farm comprises a mixture of different soils.

“We have heavy, medium and light soils and the crop is sown across them all – we mix it up. And is performs well – we always see good yields.”

Once in the ground, Richard says the fodder beet ‘doesn’t hang about’. “It germinates and grows quickly. We do need to control weeds, to prevent competition, but once well established the crop’s canopy helps to suppress them.”

The crop is typically ready for harvest at the end of September, but they leave it in the ground until lifting in mid-October. As soon as the beet is lifted, they’re ready with the drill and sow winter wheat into the ground. So they’re not leaving the land fallow over winter.

Palatable yields

For the past three years Fosyma has yielded between 30 tonnes and 35 tonnes per acre (75 tonnes and 87 tonnes per hectare). It’s stored outside in a clamp made from straw bales and feeding to outwintered livestock starts when grass growth slows, which is usually at the end of October.

“It’s fed whole, on the ground, to cattle and sheep. We don’t have to chop it. And they love it – there’s no waste.”

Richard adds that as well as adding ‘interest’ to winter rations, fodder beet also supports lamb growth.

Sheep-grazing-on-LG-Fosyma-fodder-beet_Richard-WhiteThe 450-ewe flock lambs in late April, and lambs are finished on the farm’s 400 acres (160-hectares) of permanent pasture and fodder beet during the winter. “We start selling lambs in January, at around 45kg LW,” he says.

Home grown forage saves £

“We don’t buy in any feed or concentrates for the ewes or the lambs – the system is completely forage based.”

The beef enterprise is also predominantly grass based, with only home-grown cereals fed as part of winter ration when cattle are housed. Cattle are finished and sold, at between 24 and 30 months, to local butchers in Atherstone

In 2021, Richard grew a crop that looked very ‘bare’. “The seed went in well, as usual, but were no beet plants and there were no weeds either. It was odd and Limagrain UK’s Brian Copestake came to take a look because I was at a loss as to what had happened.

“He said it was a flea beetle problem and while I was deliberating about re-drilling, the field suddenly sprouted green rows of beet plants. It soon caught up and within weeks we had a field full of strong and healthy beet that as well up to calf level. It bounced back well and I don’t think I’ve ever seen any other crop do that.” Farmer-Richard-White-tipping-LG-Fosyma-fodder-beet-whole-from-tractor-to-feed-his-sheep-flock

All-weather crop

Fodder beet also performs well in both wet and dry summers. “We noticed how much deeper rooted the crop was in 2022, due to the drier than typical conditions. It tolerated the more extreme summer and actually outperformed the 2021 crop.

We harvested 98 tonnes per hectare, which we were extremely pleased with,” says Richard, adding that poorer performing crops of different fodder beet varieties have yielded just half that at 50 tonnes per hectares.”

The Whites are planning to grow a similar hectarage of Fosyma in 2023.

“The variety (Fosyma) is the best we’ve ever grown, and we’ll certainly be drilling it again in 2023. Fodder beet has been an essential part of livestock rations and the crop rotation here for 23 years, so that’s not set to change,” adds Richard.

Learn more about Fosyma fodder beet here or contact your usual seed merchant for availability

The latest UK trial results data on fodder beet (including Fosyma) can be downloaded here

LG Fodder Beet 2024 UK Trials Data

Forage outlook and options for 2024
The climate is keeping us on our toes and this year (2023) has been no exception. It calls for flexibility and agility when it comes to growing forage crops. Limagrain’s forage crop manager John Spence sows some seeds of ideas on future proofing home grown feed supplies going forward.


“We’re ending the year with decent stores of grass and maize silage, but this doesn’t tell the full story,” says John Spence. “A cold late spring delayed grass growth, then for most grass silage making started well, until heavy rain arrived.

John Spence_Forage Manager_Oct21 (1)Hot and dry conditions weren’t as extreme as 2022, but some were affected with poor grass growth, then some respite and good grass growth through a mild autumn until heavy rain put some areas under water at worst and at best caused the late sowing of forage catch crops which will certainly hamper their yield and quality.

So farmers are faced with balancing more extreme weather conditions and the drive to improve sustainability and economic viability by producing more feed value from home grown forages.

“Marrying the two is quite a challenge,” adds Mr Spence.

“Agility and flexibility are key when it comes to planning. Avoid planning everything in stone and being too rigid with the cropping.”


Forage choices

The dairy system will determine forage options, with more alternatives typically possible in grazing herd situations. “A herd housed full time will usually rely on conserved high quality silages. “This has to remain the priority,” says Mr Spence. “But introducing forages like fodder beet and forage rye can really boost output from homegrown forages, as well as opting for higher production grass seed mixtures and clovers.

“Grazed herds can consider kale too, and some brassicas like Skyfall that ‘bounces back’, in effect giving two grazing crops, through summer which can take the pressure off the grass.”

Fodder beet, though, has been used in dairy cow diets for many years in areas where it can be grown on farm or locally on contract.

“This is a high energy crop, highly digestible and ‘enjoyed’ by dairy cows. We’ve tested a range of varieties in our own UK farm trials for more than 10 years and yields are consistently reliable, even in dry hot summers,” he adds.

“And new modern varieties are out-performing some of the older fodder beets. Limagrain trials consistently show the variety Fosyma to have the best dry matter yield at 14% above the control variety Magnum, and 5% above its closest rival Brick.”

Fodder beet’s feed value at 78% digestibility and 13MJ/kg of dry matter is a valuable addition to any dairy ration.

Kale might have been out of fashion. “But not anymore,” adds Mr Spence. “Here again, new varieties with improved feed value have brought the crop back into the spotlight.”

He highlights Bombardier – a relatively new kale variety with a nutritious stem and leaf with 72% digestibility in UK trials and 17% crude protein It’s sown between April and June so it can follow first cut silage and provide a valuable break crop in the grass rotation.

“A kale crop can slot into the plan for many grazing herds. It’s fast-growing so cattle can strip graze it as a buffer feed in mid-summer to take the pressure off the grass.

But it has a long shelf-life too, so it’s a useful crop for youngstock and dry cows in autumn and winter. In either situation it can be used as a break crop and followed with a grass reseed. Break crops between grass crops are increasingly important in breaking the pest cycle and improving productivity of grass leys.”

Forage rye has been particularly popular this autumn – 2023, with crops following harvest or early maturing maize varieties. It can be sown until late October and is ready for cutting or grazing in early spring, even before Italian ryegrass.

A crude protein content of 12% and an ME of 10MJ/kg DM makes it an ideal forage for late lactation or dry cows, or youngstock. And once finished, the field can go back into maize or a spring reseed.

 “A crop of rye will provide a valuable feed to eke out silages and it’s also a great crop to mop up residual nutrients and maintain soil health. The only caveat maybe sowing in a very wet autumn, but most farmers were in time this year, as the first half of autumn was warm and dry. So again, a flexible approach is needed and the will to act if conditions are right.”


Grass is king

Grass is the most important forage for most dairy farmers, and increasing its productivity and feed value should be on-going. This includes regular reseeding and taking advantage of improved grass seed mixtures and always selecting a grass seed mixture to suit the system and purpose of the crop, as well as the growing conditions and soil type.

“There are new varieties, improved grass seed mixtures and enhancements to match changing conditions. So farmers should seek advice and look for mixtures with proven trial results and good performance on UK farms and be discerning in their choices,” adds Mr Spence.

Limagrain trials in 2020 highlight the benefit of reseeding and of selecting proven mixtures. Table 1 highlights the productivity of a one year old ley and a four year old ley. The additional 45% of energy produced by the new sward was equivalent to more than 6,000 litres of milk (assuming 5.3MJ/litre).


Table 1


Age of Sward (Years)





Benefit of New Ley

1st Cut DM yield (t/ha)




ME (MJ/kg DM)




ME yield (MJ/ha)




Source: Limagrain UK Trials, May 2020


“The additional energy yield value from younger leys will increase the proportion of milk yield from home-grown forage, reduce bought-in feed costs and this will justify the cost of the reseed. Depending on the age and quality of the ley, estimates suggest the additional yield in year one of a reseed will cover its cost.”

Limagrain UK Grass Trials (1)Trials have also demonstrated the benefits of improved mixtures with proven feed values. LGAN is the accreditation given to LG mixtures that meet the company’s combined yield and feed value criteria, and table 2 shows the performance range at first cut of the one-year-old mixtures on trial.

“The best performing mixture at first cut was LGAN Quality Silage, which produced more than 7t/DM of 12.5ME silage. The trial year, 2020, was particualrly dry, so these results demonstrate the big gains that can be made by using high-feed-value mixtures.”

Table 2





DM yield (t/ha)




ME (MJ/kg)




ME yield (MJ/ha)





Stock up on clover

A forage outlook for 2024 wouldn’t be complete without highlighting the benefits of clover in grass leys.

“Any new reseed with clover in the mix or overseeding a ley with clover is eligible for an annual payment of £102 a hectare under the new SFI action NUM2 (Legumes on improved grassland),” says Mr Spence.

“This more than pays for the seed, and it brings all the benefits in soil health, nitrogen fixing and feed value. And in mid-summer, the clover provides good feed value when perennial ryegrass growth slows down.”

A lot of focus is also being placed on multispecies leys, with sustainability schemes encouraging dairy farmers to integrate them into their systems. “There are payments available under the new SFI scheme for sowing multispecies leys which will be worth investigating in the forage planning for 2024.

“There is a lot of considerations and it’s worth having an open mind to new ideas and options.”




For more info on forage options to suit your farm business, click here or download the LG Essential Guide to Forage Crops

New LG fodder beet varieties raise the benchmark
New LG fodder beet varieties raise the benchmark. And add more feed value from home grown forage

New trial data from Limagrain UK, published in January 2023, shows that new fodder beet varieties are raising the benchmark for dry matter yields. But another highlight is the crop’s ability to produce consistently high yields in varying seasonal growing conditions seen in the UK in recent years.

Dedicated UK Fodder Beet Trials

Limagrain UK has run fodder beet trials on its Lincolnshire site since 2008 and compared the performance of commercially available varieties of fodder beet.

“We’ve seen significant improvements in dry matter yields in the past decade, particularly among newer varieties,” says Limagrain UK’s forage crops product manager John Spence. “These fodder beet varieties are raising the benchmark and achieving record yields. They offer a consistently high energy and dry matter home-grown forage for livestock diets.”

In the latest ranking, the new fodder beet variety Fosyma has an average dry matter yield of 14% above the control variety Magnum, equivalent to more than 2.5t DM/ha.

Fosyma has 21.3% dry matter, and it is one of only a few varieties which are rhizomania tolerant. Fosyma also has good resistance to powdery mildew, rust and leaf spot,” adds Mr Spence.

Fosyma has other proven benefits that add to its appeal. “Its high dry matter is combined with its medium-depth root. We usually associate high dry matter fodder beets with deep rooted varieties, so Fosyma, with a relatively high proportion (35%) sitting out of the ground, bucks the trend. This makes it suitable for grazing in situ as well as for lifting and it carries less risk of soil contamination than the deeper-rooted varieties.”

Fosyma-Fodder-Beet-1080x800pxAnother key advantage of Fosyma is its high tolerance to bolting. It is one of the least likely varieties of fodder beet to bolt. This is particularly beneficial in more extreme seasons, such as the cold spring in 2022, followed by warm weather which can encourage bolting.

Fosyma has been included in the trials since 2019 and has been available to UK growers for the past two years.

High yielding and rhizomania tolerant variety Brick is in second place with a dry matter yield 9% above the control and a dry matter content of 22.8%. It is slightly deeper rooted than Fosyma with 25% of the root out of the ground. These characteristics give the variety excellent winter hardiness.

Reliable Robbos

A more established variety that has held its popularity in livestock diets is Robbos due to its flexibility, combined with high yields. With only 60% of the root in the ground, it is ideal for grazing sheep and cattle, and among shallower-rooted varieties, it offers a high dry matter content of 19.8%. Robbos has been included in the Limagrain UK annual trials since they started in 2008 and it gives consistent and reliable results.

“Fodder beet is really showing its colours as a consistent and reliable livestock feed,” adds Mr Spence. “We see very little variation in yields within a variety between cold, wet or dry seasons.

Sheep strip grazing LG Robbos Fodder Beet“Even after the dry summer of 2022, the crops still produced outstanding yields, and this was even more pronounced among the newer varieties, such as Fosyma, which maintained yields achieved in the previous year and well above 20t DM/ha.”

“So, for the same growing costs, farmers can produce significantly more dry matter per hectare by opting for the higher yielding fodder beet varieties.”

Sown in April, fodder beet is harvested from October onwards and can be fed in a total mixed ration or ad lib with maize silage, or it can be grazed in situ.

Limagrain UK publishes its annual trial data, available to all growers to enable them to make informed decisions. There are no recommended lists for fodder beet.

Limagrain UK’s latest fodder beet trial results are available here

Fuel from fodder beet supports cow performance

Pembrokeshire dairy farmer Roger James relies on a high energy diet in early lactation to keep his 300-cow cross bred dairy herd in good body condition and able to support milk production and high fertility levels in a trouble-free fashion.


He gets this from a combination of breeding and nutrition.

Roger says his medium-sized strong cows are ideal – a cross of Montbeliarde, Norwegian Red and British Friesian genetics. “And if we feed them properly, they produce good quality milk, stay fit and get back in calf easily.”

The diet is based on a TMR comprising grass and wholecrop silage and fodder beet – all home-grown forages – plus  molasses and a blend, as well as a rumen buffer, vitamins and minerals. This supports average yields in this NMR-recorded herd of 8,000 litres at 4.35% fat and 3.50% protein on twice-a-day milking.

“The fodder beet gives our cows plenty of energy and that, in turn, results in good fertility,” says Roger.

“We target, and usually achieve, a 365-day average calving interval. Getting cows back in calf is the cornerstone of our management system here. We’re mainly autumn calving and look to calve 240 cows in an eight-week period from October.”

Fodder beet is introduced to the ration early in December at a rate of 6kg per cow per day, increasing to 8kg per head by the end of the month to get the energy up, ahead of starting to AI cows from the beginning of January. LG_Fodder_Beet_Robbos-and-clamp

Around 3.6 hectares of fodder beet is sown in April and provides a break crop for wholecrop wheat. “The land is free-draining, and the fodder beet grows really well, whatever the season throws at it,” he says. “We lift about 320 tonne of fodder beet each year, and yield doesn’t vary much from year to year.” Average yield is about 90t/ha.

He says that during the decade of growing the crop, he’s never had a bad harvest. “In fact, we’ve had some of our best yields when it’s been really dry and hot, such as in 2018 and in 2022. I think the extra warmth in the soil, when it did eventually rain, meant the beet grew like mad and more than made up for lost time.”

Fodder beet grown at Moat Grange, just south of the Preseli hills in the heart of Pembrokeshire, is lifted in early November and stored in a clamp, before being washed, chopped and added to the TMR.

“We feed it in the TMR even after the cows are turned out in mid-March. They’re given a buffer to support yields and fed concentrate in the parlour until milk eases off and they’re approaching drying off.

“The fodder beet keeps well, until mid-April when temperatures warm up and it starts to go soft. But we aim to have finished feeding it all by then.”

Roger is discerning about the variety he grows and takes advice from his Wynnstay adviser Laurence Couzens.

“We’ve opted for Robbos for the past few years, and I’m pleased with it. It offers a high dry matter yield and feed value. And the smooth skin, and the fact that it’s not too deep rooted, means it lifts out clean and easily, making it easier to wash.

“I know I don’t necessarily need to wash it, and many growers don’t, but I prefer to reduce any risk of soil contamination,” says Roger.

He farms the 174-hectare unit, which has been in the family for more than 100 years, in partnership with his father Robert and brother Simon.

Roger manages the dairy herd and followers with the help of a cowman and two full-time staff. His partner Angharad is also developing a gelato business – Llaeth Preseli Milk and Gelato – using milk from the herd.

Llaeth Preseli Milk - Roger James Moat Grange“Milk quality from healthy and productive cows is important to us,” he adds. “We sell pasteurised milk and handmade gelato directly from the farm. The milk is sold through a vending machine, and the gelato is served from a trailer in our ‘gelato garden’. Both these ventures are brand new and going well so far. Most of the herd’s milk is sold to First Milk and used for making cheddar cheese.

“We’re aiming to get the best from our unit and our cows. Our home- grown forage is vital. First cut is taken in mid-May – a little later than some would take it, but it means there’s more fibre in the silage and this balances well with the wholecrop. The fodder beet is the icing on the cake. Cows keep well on this, and production, health and fertility are good. So is our gelato!””


Can be part of a grass rotation or an alternative to spring cereal crops to provide livestock feed and break the pest and disease cycle

Crop can be lifted from late October until March. Little loss in feed value, if any, is typically seen in later harvested crops.

Average ME 12.5-13MJ/kg DM, 162,500 – 202,500MJ/ha with more recent varieties producing well above this level.

Consider root depth, disease resistance, bolting score

There are no recommended lists for fodder beet varieties, but Limagrain UK’s annual fodder beet trial results are available to all growers and farmers.

more information

Learn more about Robbos fodder beet here or contact your usual seed merchant for availability

The latest UK trial results data on fodder beet (including Fosyma) can be downloaded here

LG Fodder Beet UK Trials Data 2023


Fodder beet helps farmer reduce his purchased feed whilst benefiting land

Growing fodder beet to feed cattle and sheep is helping Shropshire mixed farmer Gordon Tomley safeguard against high feed prices and benefit soil health as part of his cereal rotation.

Mr Tomley grows 12ha of fodder beet a year to feed his 500 head of cattle – from his own 80-cow suckler cow herd and 200 bought-in dairy cross weaners a year – and 700 ewes. He says stock do well off it, with cases of twin lamb disease in ewes almost disappearing, and Angus heifers and steers averaging at least 1kg a day liveweight gain.

It also provides a good break crop for this mixed farm, which includes 243ha of arable. The main rotation includes two wheat crops, winter barley, stubble turnips, fodder beet and potatoes.

Feeding rate

Throughout the winter, heifers and steers over 12 months old are fed whole fodder beet in bunkers at a rate of 3kg to 4kg a day and ad lib silage, building to 15kg to 18kg as they head towards finishing.

Farmer-Gordon-Tomley-feeding-Robbos-fodder-beet-to-his-sheepIn the last three months of finishing, they are also fed barley straw and ad lib corn to get the finish. However, Mr Tomley says they will always choose to eat fodder beet over corn any day.

“There’s a saying that 4kg of fodder beet is worth 1kg of corn. It certainly helps us get a good finish on cattle at a cost to feed of about 2p to 3p/kg,” he adds.

His 80 dairy cross Angus suckler cows receive 10kg a head a day of beet, and anything under 10 months is on between 5kg and 8kg a day.

Dairy x Angus heifers are averaging 315kg and steers 335kg to 340kg at about 20 months old when they are finished.

Farmer-Gordon-Tomley-feeding-Robbos-fodder-beet-to-his-sheepEwes do equally as well on the home-grown product. He farms 400 Welsh and Beulah ewes on a hill farm nearby and he feeds whole ad-lib fodder beet, using a Marshall spreader, from December until six weeks post-lambing in April.

He also has 200 half-bred Mules on the home farm which are fed ad-lib fodder beet over winter. None of the ewes receives corn, as the fodder beet provides plenty of energy, and Mr Tomley says feeding fodder beet ‘takes a lot of hassle out of the job’.

He adds: “When you have a lot of stock, it’s good to know the fodder beet is there. It means we are not at the mercy of the marketplace, safeguarding us against high feed prices.”

Fodder beet also provides an added income stream as Mr Tomley sells up to 20% of the crop to neighbouring farmers, which this year was at £45/t.

Variety selection

Variety selection is critical to achieving such good performance in his stock, a key focus for agricultural merchants Wynnstay who offer support to growers and farmers in the region.

“We see big improvements in the reliability and consistency of higher yields and the improved feed value in the more recent varieties,” says the company’s grass and root seed manager Colin Jones.

Mr Tomley grows Robbos on his medium loam soil type. It yields more than 80t/hectare and has a dry matter of 19%.

Robbos isn’t such a hard variety, which is good for the sheep as it’s a little softer on their mouths. It also keeps its leaf well, so if stock is grazing it directly, there is feed value in the leaf. The good leaf also helps protect it against frost,” he adds.

Mr Tomley also notes the cleanliness of the variety. “The first lot we lifted last year didn’t need cleaning as Robbos has a clean root. Our contractors’ machines help too, as they spin off any soil,” he says.

Farmer-Gordon-Tomley-cow-herd-eating-Robbos-fodder-beetBefore growing Robbos, he grew Magnum for many years, but the yield was lower, but it needed the same inputs.

Mr Tomley uses a contractor to sow the crop, usually around April 10, and it follows a crop of stubble turnips. The first batch of fodder beet is usually lifted at the end of November, with a second lift in January and a third at the end of February.

He stores it in a heap on a concrete pad next to his silage clamp, with the roots able to keep for four to five months.

Getting a good crop requires some key management, though. Mr Tomley explains: “If you want the yield, then you must make sure there is no weed competition early on. We use one pre-emergence and one post emergence herbicide and fungicide for powdery mildew and yellow virus to protect the crop.”

He also applies 10 tonnes/ha of layer manure and 20t/ha of farmyard manure, which is ploughed in. The ground is then flat-lifted and worked, ready for sowing. “Last year, it paid off applying at the end of August after the dry summer,” he adds.

Middleton Farm Facts

• 162ha grassland and 243ha of arable
• Growing 12ha of fodder beet variety Robbos a year
• Growing, lifting and sowing costs £1485-£1605/ha
• Fed to 500 head of cattle and 700 ewes

About Robbos Fodder Beet

• Has the potential to produce high dry matter yields with its clean yellow roots and medium dry matter content.
• Ideal choice for both dairy and beef production, and for first-time fodder beet growers.
• Robbos fodder beet is UK proven with large leaves and clean roots.

More information

Learn more about Robbos fodder beet here or contact your usual seed merchant for availability

The latest UK trial results data on fodder beet (including Robbos) can be downloaded here

LG Fodder Beet UK Trials Data 2023

Sowing a forage crop and taking a “cereal break” is a win-win!

Give the arable crop rotation a break and sow a forage crop this autumn, to help achieve better weed control and boost home grown feed supplies. Mixed cereal and livestock units are encouraged to think about growing forages on some of their arable land, as this will help weed control by breaking the life cycles of some damaging weeds and diseases.

Forage crops – and any grazing livestock – add organic matter to the soils, which is especially valuable in nutrient depleted soils. Soil structure and condition warrants attention on many arable units, and rotations that include forage crops are more sustainable in the long run.

Forage crops, such as; fast-growing brassica and root crops, and short-term grass leys, can be sown post-harvest to give a much-needed break in the cereal rotation, as well as providing a valuable feed crop.

Roots and brassicas can be grazed-off ahead of a spring drilled cereal crop, or ahead of a grass reseed. Leaving a grass ley down for two to three years will also help break the blackgrass cycle.

Interval Rape Kale Hybrid

There are plenty of high feed value varieties to choose, that can improve livestock growth rates and performance.

Our recommendations are:

Samson stubble turnip – for grazing October onwards
Interval rape-kale hybrid – high protein leafy forage
Meatmaker and Autumn Keep brassica mixtures – contain stubble turnips, forage rape and Kale. The high protein content of both forage rape and Kale complements the high energy stubble turnip bulbs to provide an excellent, well balanced winter feed.

The Power of Beet

Few forages can compete with fodder beet in dairy cow rations

Few forages can compete with fodder beet in dairy cow rations.

Its energy and dry matter content competes with the other forages, even maize silage. This can help to increase yields from forages and take the pressure off more expensive feeds.

This is the time of year to consider growing a crop or securing a grower and contractor who can supply fodder beet for the forthcoming season.

Fodder beet is reliable, producing consistent yields regardless of growing conditions. Limagrain UK trials show that even in a dry summer, beet keeps growing and produces good yields.

Yields are typically between 70 and 80 tonnes per hectare – and with new genetics, they can reach 100 tonnes per hectare. MEs are typically between 13 and 13.5 megajoules per kilogramme of dry matter in good varieties.

Sown in spring, up to early May, fodder beet can follow first-cut silage and provide a valuable break crop to help combat pests and diseases in grassland. It can also slot easily into an arable rotation if it’s lifted in October, allowing a winter cereal crop to be drilled.

It can be lifted and stored then added to a TMR or grazed by youngstock or dry cows in situ – or a bit of both.

Pick your beet

A fodder beet variety with medium dry matter content and that has 60% or less root in the ground (compared to some varieties that have 70% or more of their root below ground) is better suited to dairy systems. These are cleaner and easier to harvest or to graze.

Robbos and Blaze are prime examples. They have 60% or less of their root in the ground and both have consistent and reliable yields.
Fosyma, added to the National List in 2020, is also ideal for dairy. It is rhizomania tolerant, resistant to powdery mildew, rust and leafspot, as has a high tolerance to bolting.

Download the latest UK Fodder Beet Trial results here 

More opportunities for beet
Limagrain UK Forage Marketing Director Martin Titley

Martin Titley – Director of Forage Crops

With purchased feed becoming more expensive, many livestock producers are returning to a reliable crop that can produce a consistent feed – fodder beet!

It’s a great crop to grow, but you need the right soil, the right machinery, and a good arable knowledge – as the inputs and growing costs (approx. £1,500 per ha) are relatively high and are necessary to achieve the crops’ full potential.

Seed is pelleted and needs to be precision drilled, and considering that many of the older single row harvesters are now becoming obsolete, it’s no surprise that many livestock producers are relying more on arable farmers to grow the crop as a cash crop.

The crop is usually sown from late March to late April, and harvested in October/ November; very similar to sugar beet.

A well grown crop can yield up to 100 tonnes per hectare, with a typical ME of 13 MJ/kg dry matter – unrivalled in terms of any other fodder crop.

With purchased feed becoming more expensive, many livestock producers are returning to a reliable crop that can produce a consistent feed – fodder beet!

High dry matter varieties have also been successfully used for Biogas production, where gas yields have been impressive.

There are also some fantastic varieties available, such as the high dry matter varieties Brick and Tadorne, as well as consistent performers more suitable for livestock production, such as Robbos and Blaze.

Download a copy of the latest trial results

Spring-sown fodder crops meet the challenges

A dry autumn and limited grass growth, coupled with high bought-in feed prices, are making dairy producers consider how best they can increase output from their forage-growing area

A dry autumn and limited grass growth, coupled with high bought-in feed prices, are making dairy producers consider how best they can increase output from their forage-growing area. Limagrain UK’s John Spence suggests throwing the net a bit wider and looking at some high-feed-value spring-sown crops.

“These include kale rape hybrids, new bounce-back brassicas, and fodder beet,” he says, adding they can all provide a high-feed-value crop and give the grass rotation a valuable break.

“The starting point, when it comes to crop planning in spring, is deciding which grass swards need attention, as on most dairy farms this is the staple crop.”

A good first cut of grass silage, taken in the first two weeks of May from a high yielding conservation ley, should yield six tonnes of dry matter per hectare.

Limagrain published data from grass-seed-mixture trials across four consecutive years, from 2017 to 2020, which showed at least this level of yield in commercially available conservation mixtures. But, regardless of mixture, yield and quality declined year-on-year.

“Overall we recorded a reduction in yield of five tonnes of dry matter per hectare from the peak in year one to year four, representing a 40% drop,” says Mr Spence. “Five tonnes of dry matter would provide the energy to produce £3,280-worth of milk, based on a milk price of 30ppl.

“Estimated reseeding costs are between £430 and £700 per hectare, so it offers a clear return on investment. So putting up with poor grass is a false economy.”

A spring or summer sown forage crop can be a useful circuit breaker between grass crops for grassland pests, particularly in the light of the pesticide ban on grassland.

And these fast-growing, high-yielding forages, such as a forage brassica crop, for grazing in mid to late summer when grass gets short, are appealing on many farms.”

Hybrid brassicas and forage rape are sown from May until July. They grow fast and are typically ready to graze in between 12 and 14 weeks.

“These crops have deep roots, so they’re ideal if it’s dry – the sort of conditions we’re seeing more often. And they’re typically grazed in situ, so nutrients and organic matter are returned to the land which boosts soil fertility.”

Feed value is good too, particularly if high-value varieties are used. In Limagrain field trials, where a wide range of commercially available, rape/kale hybrids were compared, with the highest relative dry matter crops, Unicorn and Interval, yielding 11% and 17%respectively,above the control, and offering top scores for mildew resistance too.

Kale crops can also be sown across a few months too, and they u provide an additional forage crop into autumn and winter. Like all brassicas, it has a high protein content, but it will outyield the hybrids. Kale is a relatively economical to grow.

Another good spring-sown crop, which can withstand drought and provide a summer forage supplement for dairy cattle, is the unique bounce-back brassica Skyfall. “Already very successful in sheep systems, it is gaining momentum for dairy and beef systems,” says Mr Spence

Like rape kale hybrids, it’s got a wide sowing window from May to July and is ready to graze within 12 weeks. “It has large strap leaves, which look like stubble turnip leaves, and roots that are deep and elongated – more like a forage rape root – which promotes the crop’s regrowth and drought tolerance.

“After grazing, the crop is then closed up for four weeks to enable the re-growth before grazing again. We’ve seen three grazing rounds from each crop, with earlier sown crops showing the most bounce-back potential.”

At the end of summer, once these crops are grazed off, the land can be ploughed, and a grass or winter cereal crop sown. Or the land can be left for reseeding until the following spring to ensure a break in the pest cycle.

Fodder beet is another spring-sown crop with very high feed value. Alongside maize, it is energy rich and provides a palatable ‘powerhouse’ in dairy rations.

While Mr Spence suggests light to medium free-draining soils are most suited to growing fodder beet, it will thrive on a wide range of soil types. “It’s a crop that that is well suited to the UK climate. It will produce consistent yields in wet or dry conditions, so our drier summers are not too much of a threat to this crop,” he says.

For the past five years Limagrain has been exporting fodder beet seed to New Zealand for grazing dairy cattle – both milkers and young stock. “It’s taken off among their milk producers, who graze the crop in situ. They use the same varieties as we grow here and, as in the UK, the maritime climate suits the crop.

“But consider the land type first for out wintering grazing systems. Heavy, wet land can make moving fences daily, or every few days, hard work. But where it will work, producers can place fresh silage bales at the end of rows and create a sort of ‘in situ’ TMR and we see cattle thrive on this diet.”

Areas where beet lifting equipment is available lend themselves to using the crop in TMR systems. It can be lifted and clamped and used through winter.

Varieties with medium dry matters, with 60% of the root out of the ground are best suited to dairy systems, either for using in the TMR or for grazing. Popular varieties in dairy systems are Robbos or Blaze.

“There are some very good options for spring sown forages,” adds Mr Spence. “I would encourage some research and looking at the suitability of each crop for the own farm and system, and also to be discerning in the choice of variety for each crop.

“There’s been significant progress in feed value between varieties and some modern choices boast much better feed values, which will be welcome news for many producers looking to maintain or improve cost of milk production.”

Yield and feed value based on Limagrain field trials, * Combined yield over four cuts

Beet the power!

There’s no other forage crop that competes with the yield of fodder beet, according to plant breeding company Limagrain UK.

“Yields are typically between 70 and 80 tonnes per hectare – and with new genetics can be up to 100 tonnes per hectare – with MEs typically between 13 and 13.5 megajoules per kilogramme of dry matter in good varieties,” says the company’s forage crops manager John Spence.

“This level of energy competes with maize,” he adds. “That gives an idea of the sort of feed value it adds to dairy rations.”

The crop offers a lot more though in terms of feeding systems, storage and, from trials, its high reliability and consistency.

“We’re not suggesting fodder beet replaces a mainstay silage crop,” adds Mr Spence. “But it can support these silages, either in a mixed ration or grazed in situ, and it promotes production from home-grown forages, helping to replace more expensive bought-in concentrates.”

Fodder beet is a unique crop in many ways. It can be lifted and stored in a clamp, then used through winter, stored in the ground and lifted as required, or grazed in situ.

If the latter, round baled grass silage or hay can be placed at the ends of grazing strips to provide a field-based ration. “Rations need to be balanced to make sure there’s not too much energy in the diet, and there’s the necessary fibre.”

For the past five years Limagrain has been exporting fodder beet seed to New Zealand dairy farmers for grazing dairy cattle – both milkers and young stock. “It’s taken off among their milk producers,” says Mr Spence. “They use the same varieties as we grow here and, as in the UK, the maritime climate suits the crop.”

And an advantage with grazing a fodder beet crop is the reduced costs. “There are no harvesting costs, which typically makes it a good option – on the right ground – for dairy young stock. “But consider the land type first,” adds Mr Spence. “Heavy, wet land can make moving fences daily or every few days hard work. And while cattle are typically content and very healthy grazed on fodder beet, muddy conditions may increase crop spoilage”

Areas where beet lifting equipment is available lend themselves to fodder beet crops destined for lifting. “A good contractor will lift the beet in one go and put it in a clamp, or as it’s required.”

Pick your beet
A fodder beet variety with medium dry matter content and has 60% or less root in the ground (compared to some varieties that have more than 70% of their root in the ground) – is better suited to dairy systems. “Varieties with less root in the ground are favoured for grazing situations and they’re cleaner, and more easily utilised.

Plant breeding programmes have brought cleaner, varieties to the market. “Robbos and Blaze are prime examples here,” says Mr Spence. “They have 60% or less of their root in the ground and both have clean roots combined with consistent and reliable yields. We always recommend these two varieties as ideal choices for first time growers. They’re clean when harvested and this reduces the risk of soil contamination in the feed and spoilage in clamps.”LG Fodder Beet

Those with access to washing and chopping equipment may favour a higher dry matter variety. “We’ve got growers who favour high dry matter varieties for that extra feed value. Take Brick, for example, with a dry matter of 24.1%. It is one of the highest dry matter fodder beets available and has 76.3% of its root in the ground.”

Breeding programmes are developing improved varieties all the time with higher dry matters, improved disease resistance and ‘extra’ winter hardiness. “We introduce these, though, when they’re tried and tested. Fodder beet is an ideal crop for the UK’s climate, but each variety needs its merits.”

A new variety added to the National List in 2020 and now available to growers is Fosyma. “This is a good one for dairy cattle as it has a dry matter of between 20% and 21% but has only 60% of its root below the ground, so there’s a reduced risk of soil contamination. It’s also rhizomania tolerant and resistant to powdery mildew, rust and leafspot, as well as having a high tolerance to bolting,” he adds.

Choice of variety will depend on suiting yield potential with the growing, harvesting and feeding system. Disease resistance will also be a consideration. “And buying treated seed with both an insecticide and fungicide will offer a further insurance.”

Rotation slot
Dairy producers could well be looking at alternative forage crops to slot into the rotations, as the pest and disease control options in grassland diminish. “Fodder beet should be on the radar,” says Mr Spence.

“Sown in spring, up to the first week of May, it can follow a first-cut silage crop. And  if it’s lifted in October there’s chance of a cereal crop being drilled, particularly in drier autumns or more southerly parts of the country. If it’s grazed or lifted through winter, a spring cereal crop, maize, a new grass ley or another fodder crop can be sown. There’s no need to leave bare earth and the fodder beet will provide a useful break in any rotation.”

He adds that fodder beet is an ideal alternative to maize for producers in marginal areas, where conditions don’t lend themselves to maize. “Fodder beet will grow in colder temperatures, so it’s a far more successful crop than maize in some areas.”

Weather tolerant
In fact, year on year, trials have shown that fodder beet crops can cope with hot, dry summers and wet conditions. “We’ve had some variable conditions in the past five years, yet our field trials with fodder beet show that yields don’t seem to take much of a hit. If these unpredictable seasons are a sign of what’s in store, I can see a lot more livestock producers looking at fodder beet,” he concludes.

FODDER BEET – is it for you?


What fodder beet offers:
• High feed value – dry matter and energy
• Extra home grown forage
• Feeding flexibility – grazing or harvesting
• Long shelf life – crop maintains quality:
• Timing of grazing to suit through winter
• Harvested and clamped until the end of end March
• Stored in ground, harvested to requirements
• Clean varieties, disease resistance, treated seed availability
• Good break crop
• Stamina – grows successfully in more extreme summers and autumns

Fodder beet considerations:
• Soil conditions – ground needs to be suitable for grazing in situ
• Availability of harvesting services/equipment
• Access to precision drill and harvesting machinery
• Relatively high input costs – fertiliser and herbicides


Growing and feeding cost of fodder beets. Source: Kingshay Farming Trust 2010