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.
Land 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.”
Once 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.”
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