Ruminant Animal Production Using Tyfon, Forage Brassica

Project Number: LNE89-12 (USDA-SARE Program)**

Principal Investigators:** Mary Wiedenhoeft and Barbara A. Barton

Performing Institution: University of Maine

The major costs of Livestock operations in the Northeast are the purchase, production, and handling of feed. It is a known fact that grazing offers the most economical form of feed acquisition on the majority of the farms. By growing and utilizing greater quantities of locally produced, high quality forages, livestock production costs can be reduced without compromising productivity, thus increasing on-farm sustainability.

In this region, the grazing season is limited to approximately six months with traditional mixed grass-legume pastures. Herbage growth, however, is not always consistent within this time frame and is often characterized by dormant, “slump” periods.

Recently, Brassicas have been promotes as alternate crops that can supply additional or supplemental forage, thus extending the grazing season. When integrated into existing forage systems, Brassica crops have the potential to reduce: 1) the amount of purchased concentrates, 2) stored winter forage that needs to be produced or purchased, 3) harvesting costs and labor by allowing the animals to harvest the forage, and 4) costs and labor associated with manure disposal.

There is ample opportunity for grassland improvement using no-till techniques throughout the Northeast in order to save time, labor, and reduce soil erosion. Many of the permanent pastures in the region are located on steep and/or rocky land which prohibits improvement via conventional seeded preparation. Herbicide use is often assumed to be a prerequisite in no-till sod-seeding. Consequently, there is a need to develop methods that reduce or eliminate herbicide use.

Tyfon, a Chinese cabbage-turnip hybrid, recently has gained considerable attention for use as a pasture crop in commercial livestock operations. However, large-scale adoption of Tyfon as a livestock feed has been slow because of the lack of information on feeding management and utilization of this crop. To integrate Tyfon into existing forage systems in the Northeast, farmers need additional information on the nutritional limitations of this crop and its effects on animal production and economic profitability. Environmentally sound practices must also be developed for crop production and erosion control.

A series of experiments at research sites and on farms in Maine and Connecticut are planned to investigate each of these objectives and provide information to livestock producers in the Northeast. Overall, a reduction in off-farm purchased inputs, particularly for concentrate feeds, is a realistic, obtainable goal of the project within the first year. Reductions in herbicide inputs and soil erosion will also add to improved on-farm sustainability of Northeast farms that can integrate Brassicas into their present forage system.

Published Abstracts:

Cassisda, K.A., B.A. Barton, M.H. Wiedenhoeft, R.L. Hough and A.C. Thompson, Jr. 1992. Effects of hay supplememtnation on feed intake and apparent digestiblity of tyfon diets for lambs. J. Animal Sci. 70 (Suppl.1):304 (abstr.).