Turnips and radishes for forage?

Producer Question from 2010

Q: Would tillage radishes make a good fall forage, planted after soybean harvest? Is it possible to forage cows through winter into early spring on turnips? (December 29, 2010)

A:  Radishes, such as the tillage or oil seed, and turnips can make excellent fall forage. In plot trials, I have observed early November crude protein content of the top forage at 18% or more and total digestible nutrient content above 70%. Quality of the bulbs is just slightly lower. Yields have been 2 to 3 tons per acre.

Planting date is important to be able to have adequate time for growth to accumulate. In central Nebraska with an average first frost date during the first week of October, planting dates from late July to early September have resulted in successful production of these forages. In areas with later first frost dates, later planting would be fine, but it would be good to get them planted as soon as possible after the soybean harvest.

These forages are very cold hardy and slow to freeze down. They seem to hold up well to low temperatures around 15 to 20 degrees, but eventually do freeze down, brown off, and lay flat. In our environment, this is usually early December. Unless your area is markedly more mild, I do not think that they would hold up completely through the winter.

One problem with these forages in the fall is that they are very lush (10 to 12% dry matter content). Having some free-choice dry hay available is a good idea. These forages are often planted with some oats which also produces well in the fall.

Dr. Jerry VoleskyDr. Jerry Volesky, Associate Professor of Agronomy
West Central Research & Extension Center - North Platte, North Platte, NE