Fill the winter feed gap with swedes

Simon Hunt - Stephen Pastures Seeds, Gippsland and Melbourne

Fill the winter feed gap with swedes
Swedes are a slow growing brassica that have the potential to produce high yields in late autumn and winter when high quality pasture feed can be in short supply. As we prepare for spring, now is the time to think about sowing swedes to increase your home grown feed next time the cool weather hits.

Swedes have a maturity range of 16 to 30 weeks depending on the variety and yields can average between 12-14t DM/ha with the upside of 18t DM/ha. They are relatively high in feed value as can be seen in the table below:

Table 1. Typical Nutritive values for Swedes

Swede Dry Matter Content  Metabolisable Energy Crude Protein
  % (MJ ME/kg DM) (%DM)
Top 15 12.5-13 15
Bulb 10 12.5-13 12

Source: Agricom NZ Brassica, Beet and Forage Cropping Guide

Domain swede, our leading variety, is dry rot tolerant, yellow fleshed swede, suitable for sheep, beef and dairy cattle, as well as younger classes of livestock. Highly palatable, Domain usually has lower bulb dry matter percentages than other varieties and has a maturity of 24 to 30 weeks.

Domain is a first crop swede as it has no improved club root tolerance and should not be sown after another brassica. It is used as a sole crop for winter grazing and can be sown with Kale to increase leaf yields. It is also a great table swede. Swedes, including Domain are usually sown at a rate of 0.75kg/ha if sown in 60cm ridges, 1.0kg/ha in 20cm rows or up to 1.5kg/ha if broadcast sown.

Swedes perform best in cool climates with adequate moisture with a minimum annual rainfall requirement of 600mm or irrigation. They don’t handle waterlogging and are sown on beds or ridged in wet areas.

They can have either white or yellow flesh. Yellow flesh swedes are also used for human consumption.

As with other brassicas care needs to be taken when grazing with livestock, and that livestock can take time to adjust to the swedes. Other animal health precautions apply as for other brassicas in respect to the: transition times/fibre/allocation/ nitrate poisoning etc. General grazing management/ animal welfare rules for brassicas apply.

Swedes sown in spring, utilise spring rainfall to provide a quality, low cost feed source into the following autumn and winter.

Agricom NZ (2014) Brassica, Beet and Forage Cropping Guide, p 20, 28.
Dr A Stewart, Dr D Charlton, (2003), Pasture and Forage Plants for New Zealand, New Zealand Grassland Association, New Zealand Grassland Trust, Grassland Research and Practice Series No.8. Second Edition. p 68.

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