Using new harvesting and ensiling technologies, it is now possible to ensile kale (Brassica oleracea) successfully. However, there is little information available regarding the optimum time for harvest. The aim of this 2-year study was to compare the yield, fermentation characteristics and feeding value of kale harvested at different stages of growth, and ensiled with and without a bacterial inoculant. During Year 1 the crop was harvested after 15, 18 and 20 weeks of growth. The yield at each harvest was similar, but as the crop matured the crude protein (CP) concentration and buffering capacity decreased significantly, and there was a marked increase in the water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) concentration. During Year 2 the crop was harvested at 14 and 17 weeks of growth. Again, the stage of maturity did not affect yield and, on this occasion, the chemical composition of the crop was unaffected by harvest date. However, the WSC and CP concentrations of the crop were lower in Year 2 than in Year 1, possibly as a result of differences in fertilizer regime. Each of the silages produced in Year 2 was offered to six Suffolk cross wether lambs, aged 10 months, to measure voluntary intake, in vivo digestibility and nitrogen retention. Neither harvesting date nor the use of an inoculant affected voluntary intake or nitrogen retention by the lambs. However, in vivo digestibility was higher in the kale silage harvested after 14 weeks of growth and when an inoculant was applied. The results obtained suggest that harvesting kale after 14 weeks of growth can produce highly digestible silage with a high CP concentration. Although delaying harvest until 18 weeks of growth will probably result in a decrease in the CP concentration of the crop, it should also lead to an increase in the WSC concentration of the crop, ensuring a more reliable fermentation.