Summer Feed
Insight 804


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Many factors must be considered when determining the best summer crop option. This technical insight aims to compare the pros and cons of Pioneer® brand Bettagraze forage sorghum x sudan grass and summer turnips. 


Bettagraze is a late flowering, late maturing sorghum x sudan grass hybrid. Its key benefits are:

  • High yielding summer feed for grazing in dairy, beef and sheep systems and also for sorghum silage or hay.
  • Rapid early growth, quick recovery after grazing or cutting along with delayed flowering for easy crop management.
  • High sugar content, fine stems and a high leaf to stem ratio ensure excellent palatability and feed value.


The following table summarises some of the key strengths and considerations of Bettagraze.


Large seed that can be planted into the soil moisture zone and will establish even when soil surface conditions are dry.

Warm season crop that is planted in late November (or later) when the farm is usually in a genuine pasture surplus situation (i.e. not taking paddocks you need out of the grazing round).

Drought tolerant. Forage sorghum has a high water use efficiency and performs well under dry growing conditions.

Short time from planting to first grazing or cutting (normally 35 - 45 days when the crop is a minimum of 80 cm in height).

Once established crop is not usually susceptible to insect infestation or diseases.

Bettagraze grows rapidly and as long as pre-crop weed control is good there is normally no requirement for post-emergence herbicide application.

Fast regrowth. Normally the crop will be ready for a second cutting or grazing in 28 - 35 days.

Flexible. Bettagraze can be grazed, chopped and green fed or, if the feed is not required, stored as silage or hay.


For good establishment Bettagraze must be planted when the soil temperature is at least 17°C and rising. Not suitable for planting in cooler districts.

Warm season crop. Bettagraze will produce lower yields in cooler summers.

Can be prone to Argentine stem weevil damage in the establishment phase. Use an appropriate insecticide if necessary.

Medium energy and protein contents. Feed value declines rapidly as crops mature (>1.4 m). To maximise quality, feed when the crop is between 0.8 - 1.2 m in height.

Potential for high nitrate and prussic acid levels especially in crops that are drought stressed or frosted.


Summer turnips contain high sugar and low fibre levels delivering excellent energy and protein levels. There are a range of cultivars commercially available in New Zealand. 


The following table summarises some of the key strengths and considerations of summer turnips.


Excellent energy and protein levels in this highly palatable crop.

Good milksolids response rates.

Crops mature 60 - 90 days after sowing.

Relatively easy to graze and get good utilisation. With good management utilisation up to 90% can be achieved.

Can be established once soil temperatures are 10°C and rising.


Small seeded crop which must be planted at a maximum depth of 1 - 2 cm. High likelihood of poor germination and crop establishment if soil surface conditions are dry.

Turnips are sensitive to moisture stress and are likely to produce lower yields in dry summers.

Crop cannot be harvested and stored - it must be fed when it is mature even if the feed is not required at that time. The digestibility of turnip crops may decline after they are mature decreasing their feed value.

Crops should be fed immediately after milking to minimise the risk of milk taint.

Can be prone to insect damage during establishment (springtails, slugs) or growth phase of the crop (leaf miner, white butterfly & diamond-back moth). Use of an appropriate insecticide may be necessary.

Crops are susceptible to insect damage (e.g. spring tails, leaf miner, white butterfly, diamond back moth) and may require spraying with an insecticide during the growing season.

Potential for high nitrate levels.

Rumen acidosis can occur if turnips are introduced too rapidly. Introduce them slowly over 5 - 7 days to allow rumen microbial populations to adjust.

Ground left bare after grazing increasing the risk of nitrate leaching.


The estimated growing costs (GST exclusive) and drymatter cost (c/kgDM) for Bettagraze is shown in the tables below. Please note that the costs and benefits of regrassing have not been included.


 2016/17 estimated costs (excl GST)

Estimated costs($/ha)

My costs($/ha)

Spray out pasture (glyphosate @ 3l/ha + application) $70  
Lime (1 t/ha + spreading) $70  
Fertiliser (DAP @ 150 kg/ha + application) $125  
Cultivation $360  
Planting $160   
Pioneer® brand Bettagraze @ 35 kg/ha $230  
Total crop costs $1,015  

Bettagraze drymatter cost

Bettagraze yield (tDM/ha) 8 9 10 11  12 13  14  15
Drymatter cost (c/kgDM) 12.7 11.3 10.2 9.2 8.5 7.8 7.3 6.8

It is estimated that it costs $1,440/ha to grow a crop of turnips (DairyNZ farmfact 1-62 Turnips- Growing a high yielding crop). The cost per kilogram of drymatter is shown in the table below.

Turnips drymatter cost

Turnip (tDM/ha)  8 9 10  11  12  13  14  15
Drymatter cost (c/kgDM)  18.0  16.0 14.4 13.1 12.0  11.1  10.3   9.6

For more information on growing and feeding Bettagraze see Pioneer Technical Insight 801: Bettagraze.

For more information contact your local Pioneer representative or call Pioneer on 0800 PIONEER (746 633)

Pioneer® brand products are provided subject to the terms and conditions of purchasing, which are part of the labeling and purchase documents.

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The information in this publication is general in nature only. Although the information in this publication is believed to be accurate, no liability (whether as a result of negligence or otherwise) is accepted for any loss of any kind that may arise from actions based on the contents of this publication.

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Revised: Nov 2019
Expires: Nov 2020