Advice for sowing a Redstart crop this year

Tuesday 23.05.2023 , News

A Redstart crop grows fast and feeds well, making it a versatile grazing forage throughout the summer, autumn and winter. 

Redstart: a high energy, high protein feed

As a hybrid brassica, Redstart combines the benefits of fast-growing forage rape with the cold tolerance and digestibility of kale, to produce a high-quality feed offering grazing options from July until February. 

High in energy and protein with an excellent leaf-to-stem ratio, a Redstart crop is ideal for outwintering cattle and sheep as well as finishing lambs in the autumn. 

A Redstart crop is expected to yield 6 to 8 tonnes dry matter per hectare at 12-14% DM. It has an energy (ME) value of 10 to 11 MJ/kg DM and 18 to 20% crude protein (CP). And it's ready for grazing just 90-110 days after sowing. 

Grazing a Redstart crop

With the hybrid nature of a Redstart crop offering flexibility, we hear how farmers are using it in different ways:

John Hannon, Keadagh, Co.Roscommon

John Hannon uses Redstart to finish lambs and reduce his requirement for bought-in feed. He usually sows the crop in July to outwinter lambs, before reseeding with a high-quality Germinal grass mixture the following April. 

John Hannon

"I find Redstart useful as a break crop and it seems to suit our sandy soils. It's easy to sow and after applying a bit of fertiliser two weeks in it takes off. It's a low-cost reseed for me, gaining two or three grazes out of it with no weed problems."

John introduces lambs to the Redstart crop gradually, increasing their access over time until it's unrestricted with a run-back to grass for additional fibre. They stay on the crop until sold or lambed. 

"The lambs absolutely love the Redstart, and their fast growth shows it. Since introducing it, our lambs finish with an extra 1 kg of weight."

Peter McGuiness, Trim, Co.Meath

Peter McGuiness grows Redstart to support ewe performance over winter. It allows him double use of the field and to build grass covers over winter to set up for lambing in spring. It also saves on winter housing and labour costs.

Peter McGuiness

"We normally sow our Redstart crop at the end of July, turning the ewes out into it at the end of November. To use it effectively we strip graze, moving livestock every fourth day. We also provide ad-lib silage and build in a lie-back area giving the ewes somewhere to go if conditions are very wet. 

"Redstart is consistently good. Our ewes always perform well on it with scanning rates around 1.81. It fits well into our rotation and is cost-effective to sow. We go in with the one pass and stitch it straight into the winter barley stubble."

John Large, Urard, Co. Tipperary

Using Redstart as a catch crop provides John Large with an efficient way to finish lambs during autumn and outwinter ewes. 

John Large

"I grow forage rape, Redstart and Soil Booster Graze on my brother Denis' beef and tillage farm. It fits well with his rotation and the catch crops' positive effect on soil structure benefits Denis in spring. 

"We started using Redstart because its vigorous regrowth means it offers multiple grazings. It's usually in by the end of July. Our stock do well on it, with lambs finishing quickly and to weight. 

"Forage crops grow well but take the time to sow them in the right place at the right time for a good supply of valuable winter grazing."

4 tips for sowing a Redstart crop 

  • Redstart can be sown from May to August, the sowing date determining its subsequent yield and grazing availability. 
  • Earlier sowings before the end of June offer the potential for multiple grazings, while later sowings allow it to be used through into February the following year. 
  • Sow at a rate of 3.5 to 4.0 kg/acre if drilled, higher if broadcast into a fine, firm seedbed to a maximum depth of 10mm. Roll after sowing. 
  • Brassicas have a high requirement for N and P, so an adequate supply of these nutrients is critical to maximise the yield potential of the crop.

Ask a brassica expert 

For more infomation on how to successfully establish a Redstart crop, contact a Germinal expert.