Fodder beet: know what you are feeding for a nutritionally balanced diet for dairy cattle
Fodder beet’s (FB) high soluble sugar and low crude protein content provide environmental benefits but also nutritional challenges, making it a unique crop in New Zealand dairy systems. Knowledge of dietary nutrient content is important to inform both mineral
supplementation and type of supplementary feed to offer. This will help ensure nutritional requirements for dairy cows are met, maximising the likelihood of positive outcomes for animal health and production. A database containing 694 samples of FB leaf and
bulb tissue was compiled from monitor farm data, research projects, and cultivar evaluation trials with the objective of determining the variability in nutritional content. Descriptive statistics were used to highlight the range and variability in FB leaf and bulb nutritional composition between regions and cultivars. Our results reinforce that FB bulbs (which usually make up 70- 90% of the crop DM) are typically low in crude protein, fibre, phosphorus, calcium, and sulphur, but are high in soluble sugars. The variation in nutrient content between cultivars, and within cultivars both between and within regions shown in this study highlights the importance of paddock-specific feed analyses, and the limitations of textbook values, particularly whole crop values which do not differentiate between bulb and the more nutritionally valuable leaf.
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