Storing beet fresh is often a challenge due the high moisture content. In former times fresh beet were stored in piles or in barns until following springtime. Even if done well some dry matter loss is unavoidable. Dealing alternate climatic conditions keeping beets cool and not frozen is often a challenge in temperate regions. A way to overcome the storage issue is co-ensiling beet with other (more dry) feedstuff. The mixing with the dry feedstuff ensures to minimize the loss of effluent, evidently coming out of the ensiled fresh beet.
Beet contains 75-80 % water, so ensiling beet alone is possible, but will mean losses of dry matter through run off of effluent. To avoid this beet can be mixed with other feed stuff like hay, alfalfa hay, ensiled grass, dried beet pellets or any other dry mixing partner available in your region. An advantage may be to use some feed stuff already available on your farm, feed stuff you are already using. Mixing beet with maize is an option, but to synchronize harvest of maize and beet is not always optimal.
Loss at reensiling
Mixing fresh beet with other fresh crops (like maize) for silage is not ideal. To utilize the high yield potential of beet this crop should not be harvested until mid / late autumn. An alternative to mix with other fresh crops is to mix beet with already ensiled grass. This option has been practiced on a number of farms in e.g. Denmark. The co-ensiling of beet with grass silage can be done any time after beet harvest. At some farms beet are initially fed fresh and the co-ensiling is done after some month of fresh storing.
Good to know about Mix silage
It makes a lot of sense to utilize a mixing partner which is already a part of the existing feeding scheme. This will often be the most practical and most cost-efficient approach to incorporate ensiled beet in the feeding. KWS have undertaken several scientific studies on selecting the most adequate mixing partner for ensiling beet. Many types of mixing partners are suitable. Obviously, the substance should be rater dry (e.g. 15-25 % moisture).
When it comes to a concrete selection of mixing partner your choice should be based on a practical and cost-efficient solution. The local availability of a suited mixing partner will somehow play a role for the choice. Furthermore, the quality of the mixing partner should be suitable for the actual feeding scheme of the actual herd.
It is obvious that the choice of mixing partner depends on the local availability of a suitable feed stuff. If you find it necessary to purchase dry feed stuff for mixing up with beet you should ensure the quality of the feed stuff fits to your purpose. One of the most abundant dry feed stuff commodities around the globe is alfalfa hay.
The quality parameters of a mixing partner is connected to the dryness, the physical character, the health status of the feed and the nutritional value. Although the dry mater content is the most evident quality parameter of a mixing partner it not the only decisive factor. The chemical structure of the feed stuff surface plays also a role for the ability to adsorb the effluent. It is clear that the feed stuff for mixing should be clean and healthy. Finally, it is important that the digestibility and feeding value fits the animals fed. A high yielding dairy herd should off course not be fed with high amounts of lignin and slowly degradable fibers.
The ratio of beets to mixing partner naturally depends on the dry matter content of the beets and the dry matter content of the mixing partner. As a rule of thumb, the dry matter content of the finished mix should be 30-32% dry matter. It is therefore a proportional calculation of the two substances. As a rule, the calculation is made on the basis of weight. In the case of straw, a mixture of 19% straw and 81% beets may be the case. It should be noted that such a mixture looks like a lot of straw. Re-feeding with, for example, dry grass silage may result in a 75:25, beet:silage, ratio. Please contact Elo West Larsen for assistance with your individual ration calculation.
Storing fresh beet
Storing fresh beet requires attention and care. A good fresh beet storage begins with a careful beet harvest. It is important not to injure the root surface prior to storage as it may lead to higher respiration and risk of infection in the storage pile. The storability of beet is to some extend connected to the beet type (e.g. dry matter content and surface stability).
Good to know about storing fresh beet
Some loss of dry matter during storage is inevitable. Respiration of the beets leads to loss of carbohydrates, while carbon dioxide is released from the pile. Even with ideal fresh storage (2-7 ºC), there may be a loss of 0.1% (absolute) dry matter per day of storage (Swedish results). This loss can serve as a benchmark for evaluating the loss of ensiled beets, which are the alternative to fresh storage. Some growers have chosen to start beet feeding with fresh feeding (to achieve the maximum benefit of beet feeding) and ensile the remaining fresh beets after winter storage.
In Northern Europe, where beets have been grown for more than a century, fodder beets are fed fresh throughout the winter. The ideal storage temperature for beets is 2-7 ºC. The practical implications of feeding fresh beets in winter are obvious. Beets should be stored dry and frost-free. This means that beets stored outdoors should be covered, and if the temperature rises sharply during the winter, the beet pile may be partially uncovered. If the temperature drops below zero, the beet pile should be covered again.