Beet great news for beef
A Lincoln University academic says use of a fodder beet crop is great news for beef cattle farmers.
Senior lecturer in livestock health and production Jim Gibbs said fodder beet crops had been developed in New Zealand, and the growth in the area of cropping had been phenomenal.
"It is the fastest-growing forage crop in the country. In the 10 years since its introduction commercially, it has gone from less than 100 hectares nationally, to best estimates are 15,000ha last year, and it's anybody's guess what it'll be next year."
Gibbs says people like it because it is the cheapest high-energy feed available, and it lasts a long time both in the ground or when harvested.
"In the beef industry it is the first genuinely good news story in beef finishing in a generation."
He said beet was full of sugar, and stock liked it and did well on it.
"In liveweight gain and in terms of animal health, they can eat as much as they like, for as long as they like."
The crop is planted in spring, but is mature in winter, so it can typically be used from June 1. But it could also be eaten if there had been a dry summer/autumn first, Gibbs said.
"Weaners [young cattle] typically eat it right through to October, then the grass appears and they go back on to grass and are slaughtered before Christmas."
Gibbs said it was a good news story for the environment - as it was high in sugar but low in protein and its leaching profile was lower than any other crop.
"High-sugar grasses never have this yield. These guys can stock it at seven to 10 per hectare, per year.
"That's more than anything else. And these people with fodder beet will be be turning 2000 kilograms of carcass weight a year. To put that in perspective, the very best bull-beef systems turn out 1000kg a year."
He said it could be drilled on slopes as well as flat country.
"New Zealand is the most advanced country in the world for grazing fodder beet.
"Grazing fodder beet was invented here. In Europe, they'd pick it up and take it to stock. Now the idea of grazing fodder beet behind wire is being exported to the rest of the world."