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Managing a forage crop this Autumn

11 September 2018
Type Media Article

By James Kelly, Drystock Adviser, Roscommon Town

Following on from the difficult summer for growth, fodder shortages and rising meal costs many farmers have sown a forage crop. One such forage crop is a forage brassica called Redstart. Redstart is a hybrid of forage rape (supplies rapid growth) and  kale  (provides winter hardiness). The forage can be used for finishing lambs, outwintering young cattle and ewes. The advantage of growing Redstart is that the seed is relatively inexpensive and regrowths are available for additional grazing if the crop is planted early in the growing season.

Once sown grazing is expected to begin after approximately 6-8 weeks with a target of 3 grazing per crop. Redstart sown early in June would be currently on its second grazing. After each grazing chemical nitrogen should to be applied to stimulate regrowth.

When grazing care should be taken not to overgraze the crop as this would damage the stem and greatly reduce the regrowth ability of the crop. Also care needs to be taken towards the livestock to avoid digestive upsets by gradual introduction to the crop. Initally stock should be given 1-2 hours access with this being increased to full access at 7-10 days.

Brassicas like Redstart are low in minerals like selenium, iodine, copper and cobalt hence it is essential that stock are given a bolus to correct imbalances. A fresh supply of water and roughage in the form of hay or grass should be made available during grazing.