Rovey’s dairy-based crop mix includes 1,800 acres of corn silage, sorghum silage, barley, alfalfa, Bermudagrass, and beets; all on family-owned land.

Why did Rovey decide to try beets? Nutritionist Niles Jennett of Dairy Veterinary Services in Chandler, Ariz. and Betaseed animal nutrition lead Craig Talley discussed the crop option with Rovey in the farm office.

After the 20-minute meeting, Rovey decided to give beets a try under one condition – the beets must be grown on the flat.

“My one requirement was production on the flat with open ports to irrigate,” the dairyman said. “Beet production has to be easy and simple. We can’t have a lot of labor since labor is expensive.”

Before planting the beet seed, the land was laser leveled between the 66-foot-wide borders. Rovey planted the seed with a corn planter.

Rovey calls the beet a highly digestible crop and very palatable to milk cows.

“Beets are a natural feed with highly digestible fiber for milk cows and a great source of sugar as an energy feed,” Rovey said.

Feed beets are an easier feed source for the cow’s body to process, says Rovey. While a cow converts corn silage from starch into sugar to milk, beet sugar is converted directly into milk.

For years, sugar beets have been grown in California, mostly in the Imperial Valley. Some California dairymen have tried beets for feed. Beets are also grown in Germany, Denmark, and Ireland.

Beets can be grown in many climates year-round.

“Beets are about feeding cows a nutritious crop at a lower cost of production,” Talley told the crowd. “Beets bring highly digestible fiber, sugar, and pectins to the ration. It is a very nutritious crop for cows.”

Can beets can be grown in the West as spring and fall crops, creating 365-days-a-year production? No one knows yet, but Rovey is searching for answers.

Rovey planted 70 more acres of beets this spring, bringing the farm total to 108 acres. Rovey will plant a test plot this summer to find how beets will emerge in Arizona’s extreme summer heat.

Betaseed is working with several California dairies to grow its lines of beets.