12th September 2022

Energy boosting swedes put power into sheep diets

This is due to the high energy content of swedes and their low growing costs compared with other fodder crops. Limagrain’s forage crop manager Martin Titley, encouraged by the latest trial results on the newer varieties, is recommending that sheep producers consider swedes in the next few weeks when the winter’s crop will be sown.

“The pressure is on livestock producers to grow crops with high nutritional value,” he says. “But growing costs should be taken into account to make sure the production of sheep and lambs is cost-effective. Now is the time to think about swedes and their value as part of next year’s feed stocks.”

Swedes have a metabolisable energy (ME)of 12.8 to 13.1MJ/kg dry matter. This is a lot higher than many other commonly grown fodder crops. “But the low growing cost, estimated at £403 per hectare, makes the crop attractive as this is far less than crops of similar nutritional value.”

Yields will vary depending on the variety grown. The most recent trials, carried out on behalf of Limagrain UK at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, show that the modern varieties Gowrie and Lomond gave an extra 18% and 11% dry matter yields per hectare respectively than the older variety Ruta Otofte that was used as the control. This can provide an extra tonne of dry matter per hectare.

“So looking at the best variety is important and it’s not just down to yields,” he adds. “Time of feeding – pre or post Christmas, should be considered along with disease resistance. More recent varieties bring advantages here with Gowrie and Lomond  – both modern varieties  – having tolerance to clubroot and powdery mildew.”

Swedes can be grown on a range of soils and can be sown from April to the end of June ready for feeding, mainly in situ, from early autumn until late winter. “They are a hardy and reliable crop to grow and, with some crops capable of producing up to 10 tonnes of dry matter per hectare of high energy feed that can successfully take a crop of lambs through winter to finishing, they can underpin quality feed supplies.”

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