Sugar beet is the new wonder fuel, according to Southern Cross Produce owner Matthew Malcolm who has started growing and harvesting sugar beet for the dairy market.
"I can see a real future for it.
"With a lot more wintering sheds going up there will be a bigger demand to take the crop to the cows," he said.
Malcolm, who has grown 10 hectares of the crop on his Woodlands property in Southland, was keen to try sugar beet which has a higher sugar content than fodder beet.
Sugar beet has an ME content of about 15.5 per cent although its yields were slightly lower than fodder beet.
Malcolm's sugar beet crop was precision sown last September by Spa Bush contractor Ben Walling who also harvested the crop in late April. It was expected to yield around 20 to 22 tonne a hectare.
Walling also washed the sugar beet which removes about 90 per cent of the dirt and makes it a lot more palatable for the cows.
Malcolm said it was important to transition cows onto fodder beet in the field and this could be done by offering washed sugar beet to the cows while they were still being milked. "It's really important to get the cows used to the crop before you start feeding large quantities of it," he said.
Malcolm had already sold a couple of loads of sugar beet to a Southland dairy farmer.
"His cows absolutely loved it."
Malcolm, who also grows parsnips and carrots, will market the sugar beet under his 'Wonderfuel' range which also includes his other supplementary feeds such as whole crop and silage. "Sugar beet is a great alternative to feeding swedes and kale."
The sugar beet would be sold by Southern Cross Produce either whole or crushed, depending on a farmer's preference, and by the tonne.
- The Southland Times