Our main herd of Red Ruby Devon cattle and our Devon and Aberdeen Angus steers certainly enjoy their food and spend the winter feeding on a mix of kale or rape, which they “strip graze” behind an electric fence to ensure that the good food is not trampled, together with bales of hay or haylage, fed to them in large circular feeding rings.
We are firm believers in the benefits of kale and rape for our cattle, and not just because kale is considered a “superfood” for humans!! It is indeed excellent food for cattle too, nutritious, full of vitamins, trace elements and iron. They seem to enjoy it tremendously, and, in our organic system, it is an important element in our crop rotation.
While the kale and rape that we grow are related species, we grow them to a different pattern, planting the kale early so that it produces large heads and thick stems for the cattle to eat, while the rape is sown much later, fast-growing and producing succulent green leaves.
The names of these two plants are interesting, and have widely divergent historical linguistic roots. The name”rape” is derived from the Latin word “rapum” (turnip), another closely related plant. “Kale”, on the other hand, is derived from the Old Norse “kal” or ‘kol’ meaning cabbage, and still retained in Germanic-derived words like coleslaw, borecole, kohlrabi, and, of course cauliflower.
But it’s the taste and nutritional value of both the kale and the rape that is so important to our cattle in these cold winter months.