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Harvesting and storage of fodder beets

Dries Grypdonck

Dairy farmers are interested in growing fodder beets because this crop has several advantages. Among other things, fodder beets can be used in crop rotation to break the monoculture of corn. In addition, they are also an interesting option to use as a third crop on dairy farms.

Economic value of fodder beets

Of all forages, fodder beets have by far the highest energy yield per hectare: 17 to 20 tons of dry matter per ha (or 120 to 145 tons of product per ha) with an energy content of 1100 VEM/kg DS. Fodder beets are highly digestible because of their high sugar content.

Fodder beets are in the spotlight again. They have a high feed value and they are flavor makers in the ration which stimulates feed intake. This translates into higher fat and protein content. The sugar content in fodder beets stimulates butyric acid production in the rumen which increases milk fat synthesis in the udder resulting in higher milk fat content.

In a very volatile year, we are struggling with high raw material prices, which makes optimizing our own forage crops all the more important. Where other years the perspulp was relatively "cheap" we see here today a strong price increase: at the moment the market price is 69 €/ton, which gives a market price/forage value ratio of 80%.

In the table below, we make an economic comparison between grassland, cut corn and fodder beet:

Opbrengst (ton DS/ha) Voederwaarde (/ha) Teeltkost Kost / Voederwaarde
Grass silage
€ 2.860
€ 2.390
Cut corn
€ 4.358
€ 2.173
Fodder beet
€ 7.000
€ 2.742


* including a rent (lump sum) of € 900 and with reduction of payment right of € 370.

Of the three crops, fodder beets have the highest cost per hectare. But if we weigh cost vs. fodder value yield per hectare, fodder beets (39%) score more than twice as well as beet press pulp (80%) and grassland (84%).

"So a very economical fruit that is fat supporting, a tasty energy bomb and healthy for the cows..."

Storage methods

Mechanization has been fully developed in recent years, making fodder beet harvesting further and better developed.

Harvesting and storing fresh

  • The later the harvest - the higher the yield. Harvesting after mid - late November has no added value, additional growth of beets is minimal after this period and gives more chance of unfavorable harvest conditions.
  • The higher the dry matter percentage - the better the storage
  • .
  • Papering and not decapping for better preservation
  • Beets as clean as possible without damaging (harvesting in dry field conditions provide less soil tare, so less cleaning required)
  • Optimal beet pit: in open air on paved soil
  • Ventilation slot for large heaps
  • Cover with a foil cover only during frost - past frost: roll back foil
  • Use semipermeable cloth year-round (Cloth is breathable but protected from rain.
  • Storage losses: very limited until March 30
  • .

Harvesting and ensiling

Benefit: longer shelf life and continuous presence in the ration

  • In advance make very good arrangements with the contractor
  • .
  • Soilage together with corn, perspulp, MKS, grass silage...
  • Beet post-cleaning - shredding or whole beet
  • Layer application
  • Avoid juice losses

The corn has already been harvested and ensiled at the time of harvesting fodder beets. An option is to possibly ensile it together with perspulp or MKS.

  • Fodder beet - perspulp. Ratio 40-50% fodder beet (depending on dry matter content) and 60 to 50% perspulp by fresh weight
  • Fodder beet - MKS. Ratio of 1 hectare of fodder beet to 4 hectares of MKS

When we start chopping and shredding beets and ensiling them with another product, the sugars are largely converted into lactic acids. This reduces the fat increasing effect as well as palatability. Another option is to ensile the entire beet along with a dry grass silage, The beet is preserved nicely and the sugars remain intact and thus are not converted into acids.

  • Fodder beet - haylage silage. Ratio of 30 - 40% fodder beet and 70 to 60% haylage silage

Harvesting and slurping

This method is gaining popularity in recent years. At time of harvesting, the beets are shredded and mixed with a dry product such as e.g. soybean hulls, dry beet pulp, short flour pellets....

  • Possibility of year-round feeding
  • Practically no storage losses
  • Ratio common fodder beet 1 to 4
  • Feed beet ratio 1 to 6 (this is due to the higher dry matter content)
  • Advantage is that you can feed very varied in kg.

About the authors

  • Dries Grypdonck

    Dries Grypdonck is Technical Manager SEED2Feed for Belgium. Through his experience in the feed industry, he knows how to make the link between a balanced ration and a good economic cropping plan. His focus is on high-quality forage crops and how to translate this in practice into the highest possible feed balance.