12th September 2022

Sheep vote with their feet

Results from a recent trial carried out by seed breeder Limagrain UK has shown that sheep have a preference for certain varieties of stubble turnip.

Carried out at Bishop Burton College, East Yorkshire, a group of 80 lambs for finishing, of mixed breeds and all from the college flock, were grazed on a field with popular varieties of stubble turnips typically used as a fodder crop for grazing sheep and cattle.

stubble-turnips-banner“We compared two commercially available stubble turnip varieties; Samson and Vollenda, as well as Hector; a new variety which will be available commercially in 2017,” says Robert David, forage crops technician at Limagrain.

A 1.33ha field was drilled with the stubble turnips in mid-August 2015. The sheep moved from grass leys on to the field at the end of November. After a week on an area with a mix of varieties the fence was moved on to a section of the fresh crop where each variety was in a defined strip.

A yield assessment was made of each variety ahead of grazing, then each strip was monitored and the number of lambs grazing recorded four times an hour during each day, for a three-week period.

As the back fence was moved down the field each week, exposing a fresh crop, a measure of the residual yield was made. The amount eaten of each variety was compared.

“The grazing data showed us that the lambs had a preference for the new variety Hector, followed by Samson,” adds Mr David. “Our yield assessments showed that dry matter intake of Hector was 5% higher than for Samson, which was confirmed by the grazing trial results.”
Hector (2)_NEWS

Hector has been bred for sheep production. It is a tetraploid variety with a higher proportion of the root growing above the ground, making it easier to graze, which may contribute to it being favoured.

Samson is also a tetraploid variety that produces big tankard shaped purple bulbs and it is very palatable to sheep. Limagrain’s 2016 trial data shows that it produces a root dry matter yield 22% higher than the control variety.”

“Stubble turnips are a very beneficial crop for sheep producers,” says Mr David. “They are best sown in July and August and are fast growing, producing 4 to 5 tonnes/ha in 12 weeks,” adds Mr David. “This trial work shows the benefit of selecting  varieties that sheep graze in preference to others, and that, as a result,  can help achieve higher intakes and improved live weight gains.”

Limagrain have produced a Stubble Turnips Growers Guide to help growers make the most of their crop. For a copy, download below or email enquiries@limagrain.co.uk

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