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Fodder beet in dairy systems: A Research Update

Fodder beet has a key role to play in our future systems, BUT its use must be fit for purpose and strategic. Farmers need to know the quality of their crops and supplements. The proportion in the diet and type and quality of supplements are key drivers to good animal performance outcomes.

Dawn Dalley, DairyNZ Senior Scientist New Systems and Competitiveness Team

Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching (FRNL) findings:

  • Fodder Beet (FB) has a low crude protein (CP) content.
  • Less nitrogen (N) intake and lower urine N in lactating and no lactating dairy cows.
  • Pacheco studies
    • Rumen changes from feeding FB: decrease in acetate, increase in propionate and butyrate, decrease in rumen ammonia
    • On a 25% FB diet there was some sub-clinical acidosis, increases in Fat Evaluation Index (FEI), increase milk solids
    • On a 40% FB diet milk solids were lower than 25% maize silage, some sub-clinical acidosis,
    • Drop in Milk Urea Nitrogen at 45% FB, also due to lower DMI.

Southern Dairy Hub findings:

  • Kale and FB trial set up to look at standard and low environmental impacts
  • Results pending

AgResearch findings:

  • High N leaching in kale vs FB

Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) findings:

  • There is conflicting information on the proportion of supplement during transition
  • Farmer survey results indicated higher incidence of metabolic issues and mastitis, especially after winter feeding for three to five years.
  • Nutrition modelling
    • Non-lactating cows indicate a maximum of 60% FB inclusion and the need to balance calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P). Pasture and cereal silages are suitable but additional protein may be required.
    • Growing cattle indicate a maximum of 60% FB with the inclusion of pasture silage with adequate protein and supplemental calcium and phosphorus when FB inclusion is greater than 40%
    • Early and late lactation a maximum of 30% FB in diet with supplementation of Ca, P and Mg in early lactation.
  • FB Cultivar database reports a huge range in CP and P variation.
  • P supplementation required
  • Calf trial:
    • High FB diets during late pregnancy may have negative impacts on the unborn calf:
      • Higher proportion of cows with poorer quality colostrum following kale wintering.
      • Higher AST (liver enzyme) in calves
      • Calves out of dams fed FB were 10% lighter at birth and as R1’s
    • Copper supplementation for R1’s reduce fractures

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