Economic viability of fodder beets as winter forage for cattle in Eastern Oregon

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2018: $19,419.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2019
Grant Recipient: Willamette Valley Lamb
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Cody Wood
Willamette Valley Lamb


  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage


    Historically, livestock production has been an unsustainable facet of our agricultural system. We are now recognizing the power of grazing and pasture to store carbon and feed populations and economically benefit farmers. Cattle are the top agricultural commodity in Oregon, the majority of these operations are in the southeastern part of the state. One specific challenge facing producers in this region is the lack of winter forage. This shortage leads ranchers to confinement feed their animals over the winter.Fodder beets are being successfully used to pasture livestock in New Zealand; the low cost, high yield and high metabolic energy of this crop allow for high stocking densities and indicate great promise for the economic advancement of rural farmers. Fodder beets have also introduced a new avenue through which young people in New Zealand are becoming farmers. In this project, we attempted to measure the economic viability of wintering cattle on fodder beet forage as compared to feedlot systems. This was accomplished by instituting a 40-acre trial of fodder beet forage for winter grazing of approximately 142 cattle in Burns, OR.

    In this project the fodder beet forage dry matter yield was 6t/acre. This is almost 3 times less than the potential of the crop. The low yield was specifically caused by the low fertilizer application, poor soil conditions and difficulty of uneven distribution of water. Another major setback was the low gain of the calves in the first half of the grazing period. This was mainly due to low alfalfa hay allocation to the calves. However, we corrected this problem by increasing the alfalfa hay in their diet after consulting a few ruminant nutritionists. Overall, the the cost of gain for the cattle that grazed fodder beets was $3.50 per lb and the the calves in feedlot diet had a cost of gain at 0.94 cents. 

    Under ideal growing and agronomic conditions, fodder beet has potential to provide over 15t/acre forage dry matter yield potential. It is highly suitable for cattle grazing even under harsh winter conditions.  I think this method of feeding cattle has great potential and will no doubt be a popular model of cattle feeding in the future.




    Project objectives:

    1. Quantify the efficacy of winter grazing on fodder beets as compared to feedlot wintering
    based on cost.
    2. Actively share results with local extension agents, ranchers, farmers, industry
    organizations and private consultants during the trial and after the data has been collected
    and analyzed.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.