As harvest is beginning to get underway, it’s a good time to think about options post-harvest. Fast growing forage crops such as stubble turnips or forage rape offer a great addition to forage stocks. Growing these crops post-harvest allows for extended grazing over the winter months. Or, as part of greening rules, using a catch or cover crop will benefit the soil and avoid run off over the winter months.
Stubble turnips are a fast-growing catch crop suitable for both cattle and finishing lambs. Seed can be drilled or broadcast on to the stubble, at rates of 4-5kg / ha or 6-7kg/ha respectively. Sown as late as early September, they can offer grazing options over autumn and winter.
Varieties will differ from bulbous types to leafy, as depicted in the Root vs Leaf DM graph. The bigger bulbs are better for sheep grazing, with the leafier types more suited to cattle grazing. The leafier types such as Tyfon do have the potential for regrowth (given the right conditions) .
Forage rape and rape/kale hybrids are a good option for increased protein content, whilst also having a good ME yield. Sown between 6 to 8kg/ha, depending if drilled or broadcast. Once drilled, the rape can be utilised within approximately 12 weeks. Forage rape can also be grown on poorer or more exposed sites, as it has a very vigorous growth habit. Highly palatable, is it also a good choice for older ewes, particularly those who might leave teeth in the harder turnips.
Alternatively, forage rape can be sown alongside stubble turnips to add protein and winter hardiness.
Variety choice will come down to yield, but varieties with good digestibility will lead to increased animal intake. Individual sites will also need to be taken into consideration, as the shorter varieties will be better for more exposed sites.
Forage rye is an ideal crop for those wanting to have an early spring turnout. It can also be drilled later than most other options, from September to October. This also can fit in well after Maize harvest and will boost forage stocks. Rye also has the added benefit of ‘mopping’ up excess nitrogen in the ground and reducing soil erosion, as well as producing a high energy and protein feed source. Suitable for direct drilling, this benefits the crop in the winter months as it reduces soil disturbance and gives a firmer footing for livestock in the spring.
Alternatively, to a forage crop options, greening mixes can be used post-harvest.
Mixes such as Rye, Vetch or the ‘Green Reward’ can be used for grazing once they are no longer part of the catch or cover crop agreement.
The multitude of mixes are designed to offer many benefits from ‘mopping up’ nutrients in the ground to weed control. i.e. Nitrogen or phosphate can be mopped up, depending on the species chosen.
Sowing a mix with multiple species in has far more benefits than a monocrop (and is required if used for greening). This will improve the soil structure as different species have different rooting depths, breaking up the soil throughout. As well as rooting, crops can add biomass above ground, further improving soil organic matter and helping to reduce weeds. Certain species such as Oats have Allelopathic qualities, or species such as brown mustard are used for Biofumigation, are all advantageous to reducing weeds. Species such as Vetch can be used to ‘fix’ Nitrogen, further helping the following crop.
Catch crops – these are designed to be in the ground from 20th August to 14th October, as part of the EFA Greening, will fit in well after harvest.
If you have any questions about post-harvest planting, contact our seed team on 01243 755788.