Growing and Feeding Sugarbeets on Dairy Farms in California (Part 3)

Growing and feeding field of sugarbeets

RESEARCHER: Stephen Kaffka, UC Davis

TIMELINE: January 2021 to March 2022

BACKGROUND: California dairy producers need alternative crops to be used as dairy feeds that can be produced with less water and improved nutrient management. Sugarbeet silage crops can be produced on lower quality soils, at low overall cost, with water savings and improved nutrient management. 

OBJECTIVE: To measure yields, analyze feed quality, and costs, of producing sugarbeets as a winter crop on dairy farms in the San Joaquin Valley (SJV); Estimate water use and nutrient budgets for beet silage crops; Evaluate use of beet silage as a dairy feed in a formal feeding study, comparing different levels of beet silage with other total mixed rations without beets; Optimize farm water use though use of winter crops and create a feeding model that optimizes on-farm water use; Extend results to the dairy community through outreach and publications.

INDUSTRY BENEFIT: Production of local data on sugarbeet yield and beet silage quality that can be used by dairy producers in the SJV interested in using sugarbeets as a dairy feed. Feeding study outcomes will help dairy nutritionists incorporate beets into existing dairy rations. Since sugarbeets are grown in winter with low water requirements, and are deep rooted, they may help dairies comply with new irrigation water constraint requirements under the sustainable groundwater management act and assist in balancing nutrient supplies. Since beets are salt-tolerant, they may also help in situations where corn silage crops are inhibited by salinity.