With the dry weather and no site of rain, it is hard to see how outwintering crops can be grown successfully this year. Kale planted in May has not really grown and is patchy at best. Stubble turnips require around 12 weeks to grow a reasonable crop, assuming there is some moisture, so would need to be in the ground in early August to be ready for November grazing.
The temptation is to look to house stock this winter instead, providing you have enough housing, forage and bedding. Housing stock will increase your costs further, on top of what is already likely to be an expensive year.
We recently costed through housing yearling cattle, verses keeping them out on just cereal stubble and feeding round bale silage and no outwintering crop. The costings are as follows:
There is no crop cost for the outwintering option as it is assumed that the weather will prevent the establishment this year.
As the figures show, it is £0.63 per head per day cheaper to keep the cattle out on stubble and feed baled silage than housing them. For 50 cattle over a winter of 150 days, this equates to a saving of £4,725.
The other benefits include lower risk of disease, by not housing the cattle and the muck is spread for you by the animals, rather than having to clean out the sheds and spread mechanically. Whilst they may grow slightly slower when compared to housed cattle, we often find that once outwintered cattle go back on to good grass they grow quicker and catch up stock that was housed, i.e. compensatory growth.
Obviously outwintering requires the right soil type, lighter free draining land, good fences and sufficient round baled silage. The point is not to assume that just because you can’t plant a crop to outwinter on you have to house stock.
To discuss outwintering options further, contact your local FCG office or Phil at firstname.lastname@example.org