Pasture: Brassicas allow the flexibility to increase livestock carrying capacity and extend the grazing season into late fall and winter.
Cover Crop: Brassicas have many agronomic benefits when used as cover crops such as erosion control, nutrient recycling, enhanced soil tilth, reducing soil compaction and building organic matter.
Wildlife: Brassicas are nutritious and desirable food sources for deer and other wildlife during the winter months when other food supplies are scarce.
Brassicas are a species of plants in the mustard family (Brassicaceae).The members of this genus are collectively known as cruciferous vegetables, cabbages, or mustards. Brassicas are fast growing annual or biennial crops that are highly nutritious, productive and digestible. This large group includes cabbages, mustards, kale, swede (rutabaga), rape, turnip, radish and others. Crude protein levels range from 15-25% in the herbage and 8-15% in the roots depending on weather and fertilization.
Brassicas can be utilized in most areas of the U.S. depending on the species and are best adapted to well-drained soils with a pH ranging from 5.3 to 6.8.
A firm seedbed is desired but not often practical when planting brassicas as a cover crop. Seed can be planted with a no-till drill, conventional drill, by airplane or broadcasting. Increase seeding rates if broadcasting or flying seed on. Seeding rates vary by species and whether the seed is being planted alone or in a mix. In general, seeding depths are ¼ to ½ inch. Fertilizer should be applied at planting following soil test recommendations. Some species require split applications of nitrogen for best results.
Brassica management will vary depending on species and even varieties within each species. Each brassica species has advantages and disadvantages, but in regards to livestock grazing, all brassicas have the potential for causing bloat, nitrate poisoning and other disorders. These disorders can be avoided by adhering to the following management rules.
- Introduce grazing animals to brassica pastures slowly. Don’t turn hungry animals that are not used to brassicas into a brassica pasture.
- Brassicas should not make up more than 75% of the animal’s diet. Supplement with dry hay or allow access to grass pastures.