Picking premium winter kale for dairy cow grazing

Next winter may seem a long way away but in reality it’s only a matter of weeks until kale crops are underway for dairy grazing during 2019.


As anyone who has ever had a poor crop knows, winter feed is a critical investment.


Picking the right kale cultivar is a key step towards getting the best out of your wintering dollar.


Yield is important, but if you want cows to utilise the crop well and achieve good gains in BCS, the ME level of the kale stems also needs to be considered.


Kale cultivars differ significantly in feed quality. This is because most of their DM yield (70-80%) comes from the stem of the plants, and the feed value of kale stems vary considerably.


Some older cultivars are high yielding. But their stems have poor ME, which means lower crop utilisation if you don’t graze the stems, or poor cow BCS gains if you push cows to eat them.


Caledonian kale is different. It has a unique combination of high DM yield and stem quality.


As a marrow stemmed kale, it maintains higher ME than older tall varieties, particularly in the lower half of the stem.


That means less wastage, better animal nutrition and less trash to deal with when it comes to re-sowing the paddock next spring.


At the same time, however, Caledonian is still a tall, high yielding kale variety, averaging 12-16 t DM/ha, and reaching 20 t DM/ha in good conditions.