Growing Futures

Feeding livestock through the year

Feeding livestock through the year

Forage brassicas provide valuable nutrition during low pasture seasons

New Zealand earns around $10 billion from milk product exports and $6 billion from exports of beef and lamb. The 10 million cows and 31 million sheep raised by our dairy and meat industries require feeding during seasons of low pasture, and more than 300,000 hectares of forage brassicas are planted each year as sources of high yielding, high quality animal food, particularly during the winter season. Incorporating forage brassicas in a rotation crop system can also enhance soil fertility and structure.

Breeding brassicas for New Zealand

Forage Innovations Limited (FIL), a joint venture between Plant & Food Research and PGG Wrightson Seeds, is the largest dedicated forage brassica breeding company in the world. FIL develops cultivars of forage brassica specifically bred for New Zealand conditions, including kales, swedes, turnips, rapes and radishes. The company receives royalties based on seed sales, which funds the breeding of new cultivars with high dry matter yields and increased resistance to pests and diseases, particularly club root and dry rot.

The company has released 23 cultivars since 2000, including 'Aparima Gold' swede, Regal® kale and Goliath® rape. Recent releases have an increased tolerance to the herbicide Telar™ for inclusion in the Cleancrop™ brassica system, allowing farmers to grow brassicas in fields previously deemed unsuitable because of increased weed pressures.

Adding value for farmers

Feeding dairy cows FIL forage cultivars is estimated to deliver additional milk solids of around $8 million annually, and increase the weight of sheep and beef cattle to deliver an additional up to $35 million of meat per year. Overall, FIL cultivars are estimated to provide an average annual benefit of $26.5 million to New Zealand farmers, as well as $250,000 in export revenue.

Forage Innovations Limited is funded primarily through royalties made on seed sales.

Created: September 2013

Share this impact case study: