Summer Fodder Crops

Summer fodder crops are an extremely valuable out of season feed source. By January/ February when feed is limited, farmers will wish they had a summer forage crop in the ground as they produce large volumes of feed and are relatively inexpensive to establish. They can be used as maintenance feed, as an alternative to feeding out hay and silage, or a highly nutritive mix can be used to fi nish livestock. In years gone by, a summer crop may have comprised of a forage rape or turnip mixed with some millet to fatten stock in a fi nishing system. In recent times, with increasing livestock prices, there has been a focus on pushing animal production which has led to diversifying the mixture by way of including summer active forages like chicory, red clover and daikon radishes. By sowing a summer fodder crop a paddock will be in much better condition for sowing a permanent pasture in the following autumn. By levelling and working the paddock in spring it cuts down the preparation time enormously and in most situations it is simply a matter of direct drilling your permanent pasture.

Hybrid Forage Brassicas

Forage brassicas have changed quite a lot over the years and there are now many types available to fi t diff erent situations. Hybrid forage rape provides fl exibility with sowing and can off er multiple grazings. Typically they are sown in spring once soil temperature reaches 12 degrees. They can run for 10-12 months before they vernalise in winter and then run to head early in the spring of the following year. All forms of forage rape are a high protein feed source, but the rich nature of the feed can cause scouring in calves and lambs. They are best sown with chicory and millet to provide a more balanced diet and in turn better animal performance.


Turnips have also seen big improvements in breeding over the last decade. Leafy turnips in particular have gained traction as a fast maturing, multi graze option. They are similar to forage rape with a more fi brous root system so are much better suited to irrigation mixes. Bulb turnips are generally a one graze only option. The faster maturing varieties can be ready to graze in as little as 50 days, producing large tonnages which are ideally strip grazed with electric fencing.


Millet will provide valuable fast growing forage from December through to May and is suitable to all classes of livestock. At no stage will millet cause stock health issues. It can be sown with rape and turnips and will grow on a wide range of soil types. Millet is a very viable cheap option on areas considered marginal or have low fertility.


Sorghums need to be sown when the soil temperature reaches 16 degrees and rising. Once established, sorghums can be grazed or cut for hay/silage. Sorghums will regrow strongly once grazed if moisture permits. Adequate soil preparation is the key to success with sorghum crops

Tips for Growing Successful Fodder Crops!!

Plan Ahead Get a soil test to identify nutrient defi ciency. All fodder crops respond well to nutrients, especially nitrogen. Alternatively, a plant tissue test can be taken post establishment to address defi ciencies in crop – talk to us about taking a soil or plant tissue test.

Weed & Insect Control – Poorly managed paddocks are normally badly infested with annual grasses and broadleaf weeds. Sowing a fodder crop can aid in eradicating weed problems you may have prior to going back to a permanent pasture.

Sowing – Ideally seeds should be sown into a well-prepared, fi ne seedbed. Rolling after seeding will give good seed soil contact that will aid in faster plant establishment. Be prepared to sow when soil temperature and moisture are optimal. Summer fodder crops have varying soil temperature requirements and sowing at the right time can be the diff erence in establishing and getting maximum production from your crop. Sowing too early can result in poor establishment due to the temperature requirement for plants to germinate without running to head, and sowing too late can come at a cost to moisture levels which are usually at a premium at that time of year.

Crop Management – Continue to monitor for pests and diseases, as damage will cause decreased quality and palatability of your crop. Once crop is mature, introduce stock slowly through short grazings at regular intervals. Once stock have been conditioned, they will prefer fodder crop to a pasture. Always supplementary feed with grain, hay or silage and monitor stock closely.

Stock should always have access to clean fresh water!

VarietySowing Rate Regrowth Drought TolleranceApprox. Weeks to 1st Grazing Attributes
Winfred2 - 5 Very GoodVery High10 -12Most reliable producer for dryland situation, recovers quickly from grazing, slightly less palatable than newer varities.
Mainstar2 - 5Very GoodHigh10 - 12Increased palatability and leaf percentage compared to Winfred. high aphid tolerance.
Pillar2 - 5Very GoodHigh12 - 14Fast establishing, high yielding, multi-graze giant-type Forage Rape. Very good re-growth.
Titan2 - 5Very GoodHigh10 - 12Multi-graze option with excellent regrowth. Dryland or irrigation option.
Pacer3 - 5ExcellentMedium6 - 8Very fast establishing leafy turnip, rapid recovery from grazing, multi graze option.
Bouncer3 - 5ExellentMedium6 - 8Leafy turnip, multi graze option, fast recovery from grazing.
Appin1 - 2GoodMedium6 - 9Suited to all livestock. Reliable producer, don't overgraze initially.
MPT0.5 - 2PoorMedium14Excellent value for money in broad acre situation. Leafy tops and large bulbs, marginal country. One graze option.
Marco1 - 2PoorMedium7 - 10Very early maturing, 50-70 days from sowing to grazing, high bulb-leaf ratio, very high yielding, one graze.
Shirohie8 - 25ExcellentMedium6 - 8Reliable safe source of forage, excellent source of roughage, also suits irrigation.
SORGHUMApprox height for 1st grazing
SSS3 - 20GoodMed/High80cmSuitable for dryland or intensive irrigated situations. Very fine stem, sweet and leafy variety, produces very high quality hay, can tolerate several grazings/hay cuts.
BMR Calibre5 - 30ExcellentMed/High80cmEarly-mid maturing sorghum/sudan grass, lower lignin variety for higher digestibility, rapid regrowth from grazing.
BMR rocket5 - 30ExcellentMed/High80cmEarly flowering, low prussic acid potential, utilises BMR-6 gene for better digestibility and standability.
BMR Octane5 - 30ExcellentMed/High1 mtrEarly vigour in cooler conditions, high sugar levels, excellent crude protein and energy, high biomass production and regrowth.
Chomper5 - 30Very GoodMed/High80cmVery strong early vigour. Suits grazing, hay and silage. One of the earlier grazing varieties.