EAST TEXAS - A recent trial conducted by a good buddy of mine, Ashton Logsdon, looked at the viability of seeding turnips with ryegrass as a winter grazing option for cattle. The results were interesting to me as he delved into the specifics of this option that may sound odd to some.
I first heard of establishing turnips almost 25 years ago when my dad spoke of the practice on large ranches he worked with that were west of Ft. Worth. There, they would use them jointly as wildlife forage as well as for the cattle. This pre-dates the bagged white-tailed food plot mixes that became popular several years back. If you look closely as the label, they’ll say that their seed blend is largely “brassica” varieties. Astute gardeners know that brassica is the family name for cabbage, mustard, turnip, broccoli, kale, rutabaga and more.
The test plots were seeded on Sept. 28 with the old standard Gulf ryegrass and Purple Top turnip seed into a slightly disked plot. The seeding rate was 25 pounds per acre for ryegrass and 2 pounds per acre for turnip - both standard, recommended rates.
Lightly disked is the most common means to prepare a bed as you wouldn’t want to destroy an existing pasture. A no-till drill is another excellent option but one that many folks don’t have access to.
Interestingly, all the ryegrass seed was displaced in the plots due to our heavy fall rains. This is an important observation as the very act of planting a crop (even ol’ ryegrass) is not without risk.
Half of the trial was fertilized at a rate of 100 pounds per acre of 34-0-0 and results were measured at 60 days after planting.
The short story is that even without fertilization, turnip produced an average of 629 pounds of dry matter per acre of high-quality grazing. Fertilized at a rate of 100 pounds of 34-0-0 per acre, this was tripled to 1,829 pounds of high-quality forage per acre.
We say “high-quality” because it tested at 18 percent crude protein. That is on the same level as alfalfa.
Where the numbers get interesting is in the financial side. The cost per acre for the unfertilized plot was $10.73 and it was about three times the cost for the fertilized acre at $30.95.
However, when you look at the cost per ton of actual forage, you would be at a break-even cost. Non-fertilized was at $34.12 per ton and fertilized was at $33.66 per ton.
As a result of this specific trial, one takeaway is that if you have the acreage, you can skip fertilizer costs. If you are short on land, fertilizing will triple production and you can walk away with the same amount of cost per pound of forage produced.
Looking ahead, this needs to be replicated and have the results compared. We cannot forget that the heavy rains did cause a loss of the ryegrass stand. There is lots to learn from this and other trials and we should always keep in mind the risks associated.
Logsdon is an Assistant County Agent currently serving Nacogdoches County. His trial is similar to others that have been conducted over the years and should remind producers to keep looking at options.
For a copy of the demonstration results, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you a copy.