Fodder Beet

We grow fodder beet here on the farm as a feed for the cattle.

Fodder beet is a similar plant to the more commonly seen sugar beet plant.  The sugar content is lower, but the yield per acre is typically somewhat higher.  Sugar beet growers may typically expect to grow between 20 and 30 tonnes per acre, whereas fodder beet typically yields between 25 and 40 tonnes per acre (although it may be slightly lower in dry matter). 30 plus tonnes per acre is quite common and 40 tonnes per acre is quite achievable given a good soil type and ample summer rainfall.

There are different varieties of fodder beet that have different characteristics.  Generally speaking there are red or orange coloured varieties which tend to be slightly softer and also tend to grow further out of the ground.  These varieties may be suitable for grazing by sheep or feeding whole to sheep and cattle without chopping the roots.  Another advantage is that less soil will cling to the beet if it is harvested with a machine.  One disadvantage of these varieties is that they tend to be more susceptible to frost as they are growing more out of the ground and they are also softer varieties.

There are also white varieties of fodder beet.  Some of these have the tendancy to grow deeper into the ground, be higher in dry matter, and also be harder. This gives them more frost protection.  They can usually withstand frosts of minus 5 degrees C without too much damage.  These harder beets can also have better storing capabilities when harvested and kept in a clamp.  They normally require chopping for cattle to eat these harder roots.

We have tended to grow the white beet on our farm.

Fodder beet will usually store in a clamp (heap, protected from frost with straw bales – in the UK) until the end of April. Some growers will place the retaining bales of straw on pallets to aid air flow into the clamp to help keep the beet cool and facilitate longer storage periods.

We put air ducts under the clamp towards the back of the heap, so we can ventilate with a fan to keep the temperature of the beet correct.  This can lead to much longer storage and less deterioration.

The cattle really like to eat the beet.  It can raise dry matter intake and reduce the amount of barley we need to feed.  Protein content is, however, lower than barley so this needs to be accounted for.  We feed the beet to both growing and fattening cattle and to the suckler cows.  The suckler cows get low quality silage plus some beet.  The amount of beet we feed to the sucklers depends on their condition score and if we are trying to get the cows to increase of decrease their condition.


Cattle Go Out To Graze

This week the cattle have left the fold yard and have gone out to graze, no more silage and fodder beet for them but lovely green grass to eat!

The cattle first went out onThursday and came in at night for the first two nights as we had a cow to inject with antibiotics due to a lump on face.

On Saturday the cattle were let out and they have stayed out all night, although I don’t think they have enjoyed the rain!

Here are a few photos of the cattle waiting to come out and then being let out and walking to the field.

The Charolais Bull and Cows waiting to go out to grass.

The Charolais Bull and Cows waiting to go out to grass.

Gates open and cows and calves head out to the field.

Gates open and cows and calves head out to the field.

A leisurely walk to the field.

A leisurely walk to the field.

The cows and calves nearly at the back field.

The cows and calves nearly at the back field.

The cattle enjoying the sunshine and laying around the field.

The cattle enjoying the sunshine and laying around the field.

Cow and calf chewing the cud!

Cow and calf chewing the cud!

Do you keep cattle and have yours gone out to grass or are they cattle that stay out all year?

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Charolais Cross Bull Calf Born

A charolais cross bull calf was born on the farm yesterday. The calf has a lovely natured limousin mother and the father is a charolais bull.

The cow needed to be helped with the birth as the calf was a large bull calf and was taking some time to come out, so the farmer’s helped the calf and cow along with the calving process.

A calving stick is used to help pull the calf out. Two sets of ropes are added to the calf’s feet and then added to the calving stick and then the ratchet on the calving stick is manoveured up and down until the calf is pulled out of the cow.

Charolais Cross Bull Calf Just Born

Charolais Cross Bull Calf Just Born

The temperatures were below zero on the day the calf was born so the photos show the calf just after he was borning and steam is coming off his hot body.

Charolais Cross Bull Calf Just Born

Charolais Cross Bull Calf Just Born

The calf was bottle fed the first night as he hadn’t got up but the calf is now standing and suckling well.

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Defra Encourages Farmers To Report Bovine Abortions & Premature Calving

I have just been reading in Defra’s  Farming Link magazine that Great Britain has been officially free of brucellosis since 1985.

Brucellosis of cattle, also known as contagious abortion and Bangs disease, is caused by an infection with the bacterium Brucella abortus. This bacterium not only affects cattle, but also sheep, goats and pigs. Brucellosis infection of cattle causes abortion, premature calving of recently infected animals, most often between the fifth and eight month of pregancy and infertility.

Defra are encouraging farmers to monitor their cattle and to report any bovine abortions or premature calving that takes place less than 271 days after service to their vet.


Calf Born & Cow Aggressive

Cow number 32 had a calf in the early hours of Wednesday morning. When I went out at 7am the calf was standing and looked like it had been born for some time.

Charolais Calf

Charolais Calf

It didn’t take me long to realise this was a newborn calf as the cow was very protective and acting in an aggressive manner when anyone went near the fold yard gates. The calf is a heifer calf and is strong and getting lots of milk.

Charolais cow and newborn calf

Charolais cow and newborn calf

We moved the cow and calf into the calving pen for the first few days so that the calf has plenty of room and isn’t knocked about by the other cows.

Today (Sunday) we tagged the calf and have moved the cow and calf back into the fold yard. I had to keep my distance as cow 32 really doesn’t like me and whilst she is generally a bit of a bad tempered cow she is even more so when I am about!

When 32 went back into the fold yard with her calf, some of the other cows started fighting with her as they have been separated for a few days and need to re-establish the pecking order! There was alot of hoof scuffing along the floor and head butting each other but they have now settled down thankfully.

The calf didn’t seem to be phased by the move and the fighting. she is quite a big calf and lively and so is able to get out of the way if needs be.


Symptoms Of Liver Fluke In Cattle

As well as damaging the liver of the cattle, liver fluke can reduce milk production in dairy cattle and lower feed conversion rates in beef cattle.

Principle signs of liver fluke in cattle are:

  • Gradual loss of condition.
  • Progressive weight loss.
  • Reduction in milk yields.
  • Bottlejaw.
  • Abdominal swelling.
  • Animals may become jaundiced.
  • Cattle reluctant to move any distance.

Click on the image below to visit Amazon.co.uk to find out more about this book or visit one of the Farming Friends Bookshops.



Heifers Move To Fold Yard For The Winter

We have had 10 heifers grazing in the paddock and back field all Summer and today we moved them indoors for the Winter. The heifers will be wormed in the next few days a standard practice afer spending the Summer months grazing the fields.

One of the heifers has stiff back legs so we have sectioned her off so that she has her own quarters and won’t be knocked by the other nine heifers in the fold yard.

The animals are given milled barley and silage to eat twice a day.

Click on the image below to visit Amazon.co.uk to find out more about this book or visit one of the Farming Friends Bookshops.


Bulls Sent To Market

Monday is market day and if livestock are ready for sale then Monday is the day they go.

We have had two bulls in the fold yard all Summer. They are lovely bulls and I have got quite fond of them and have given them names, which is never a good idea! They were given the names Ginger and Two Horns.

Two Bulls Ready For Market

Two Bulls Ready For Market

Two Horns was ready for market last week but unfortunately he wouldn’t load, although that was lucky for him as he had a weeks reprieve!

This Monday the plan was to get Two Horns into the trailer and if Ginger went in as well then it would just mean turning him round and getting him out. Sounds easy, but let me assure it’s not!

Two Horns is obviously called two horns as he has two horns on his head. Usually the cattle are dehorned when they are less than a week old butTwo Horns’ mother becomes very aggressive when she has calved and she calved out in the field and so it wasn’t possible to catch the calf to dehorn him, thus the name. Since Two Horns mother was aggressive at times, it was felt that Two Horns also had this potential. With this in mind it was felt for everybodies safety better if we just sent Ginger along to market as well.

My father-in-law wasn’t totally convinced we should send him as he didn’t think he had reached full market weight, but because of the safety issue decided it was best to take him, poor Ginger , not the best decision for him!

News from the market was good, although having not wanted to go into the trailer, neither bull wanted to come out. Usually way! Both bulls weighed well and the Ginger bull fetched just under £900 and Two Horns fetched over a £1000.

I was sad to see the bulls go as I talked to them everyday, twice a day at least, so they will be miseed, but it’s good that they fetched a good price at market.


When Do Farmers Prefer Their Cows To Calve?

When do farmer’s prefer their cows to calve? We prefer to calve our herd of beef cattle cows after the end of February and through Spring.

Dear Sara, I am conducting some research and wonder if you might be able to help. Can you tell me when do farmers generally prefer their cows to calf and are there any circumstances that you might be able to suggest as to why a cow would calve in July e.g. premature birth etc. I know this might seem a strange enquiry so I apologise. Many thanks Chris

Hi Chris,

Thanks for your enquiry on the farmingfriends website. My husband is the cattle expert and I have asked him his opinion.

He says that they prefer to calve their beef cattle cows after end of Feb and in Spring as they are less susceptible to pneumonia. The disadvantage of a calf being born in Spring is that when the cows/calves go out to grass the calf will still be suckling milk from the mother and not utilising fully the grass.

If a calf is born in the Autumn/Winter then they can utilise the grass when they go out in late Spring/Summer. The disadvantage of calving in early winter is the calf is growing when the weather is cold and wet and so more susceptible to pneumonia.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions related to this.

Kind regards

Sara @ farmingfriends

Let me know your views on the preferred time for calving cows.

Click on the image below to visit Amazon.co.uk to find out more about this book or visit one of the Farming Friends Bookshops.


Cattle Go Out To Grass

Today the cattle went out to grass for the first time.

All the cows, the bull and the calves were rounded up in the fold yard passage way this morning whilst I held the gates so they couldn’t all charge out. I have to say it’s scary when all the cows are facing you and you only have a stick between you and them!

Once they were all rounded up then Farmer Ian held them back whilst the gates were removed and then with Farmer Steve and Farmer Terry at the back, the cows were allowed to move forward.

It’s amazing how quickly they move as they seem to know that they are going out to grass. The cows and bull all make a run for it with the calves trotting behind. Once in the field they like to run the full length of the field before they settle down to the job of munching the grass. Whilst the cows are running up the back field the farmers get the electric fence in position and switched on.

When the guinea fowl were turned out to free range for the day, they didn’t seem happy that the cattle were in the field that they like to visit and eat grass and lay eggs in the hedgerow, but I’m afraid they’ll all just have to get along!