Grazed brassica and forage crops for cattle and sheep

Find out how to extend the grazing season, supply a forage gap or outwinter livestock. Our advice will help you manage all aspects of grazed brassica and forage crops.

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Why graze brassica and forage crops?

Brassica and forage crops can provide nutritious, cost-effective feeds for cattle and sheep. They can be used in arable and grazing rotations and work as break or cover crops.

Benefits of grazing brassica or forage crops include:

  • High dry matter (DM) per hectare
  • An increase in animal performance
  • Reduced feed costs when grazed
  • Reduced machinery use for feeding out
  • Better soil structure
  • Weed control before reseeding

These crops do not fit into every system; site selection is crucial. Attention to crop nutrition and agronomy is important for a successful yield.

What is a forage gap?

A forage gap is a gap in forage supply, such as when grass supply is below livestock feed demand. This is different for every farm and from year to year, but a forage gap typically occurs in the summer and winter.

Forage gaps can be filled by feeding silage or hay. However, this will increase feed costs. If you know when your forage gaps will occur on your farm, you can plan ahead to reduce the impact of the forage gap by:

  • Changing calving and lambing dates
  • Selling livestock
  • Using brassica and forage crops to fill gaps
  • Tactical fertiliser applications
  • Changing your grazing strategy
  • Choosing different grass varieties

A good starting point is to consider:

  • The total feed requirements for the stock on the farm
  • How these feed requirements are met under the current system
  • What opportunities brassica or forage crops offer
  • How much feed is needed

Example grass supply and demand curve

Grazed brassica and forage crops: crop choice and establishment

Read our tips on expected costs and performance and how to establish crops for grazing to find out how to choose a crop suitable for your farm.

Find out more about crop choice and establishment

Grazed brassica and forage crops: feeding and management

From feed planning to health and welfare, our advice and resources will help you optimise feeding and management of livestock grazing brassica and forage crops.

See our advice to optimise feeding and management

Alternative winter systems to housing cattle and sheep

Read our tips and advice on managing environmental impact, outwintering, deferred grazing and outdoor straw pads.

Read more about alternative winter systems to housing

Useful links

Using brassicas for Better Returns manual

Read the Forage First guide

If you would like to order a hard copy of Using brassicas for Better Returns or the Forage First guide, please contact or call 0247 799 0069.

Learn more about Forage for Knowledge