Words: Bruce Paterson & Janelle Gillum, Barenbrug
Whether it’s plantain, turnips, kale, white clover, diverse pasture or perennial ryegrass, sustainable farm grown feed is the name of the game right now.
So we’re getting right amongst it in our work with Dairy Trust Taranaki, putting forage theory into practice from as many different angles as possible.
You want more feed in summer? We have a plan for that. Looking to maximise your ryegrass? We’re on it. Keen to use plantain for environmental reasons, but not sure how to make this species work for you? Our third year of research on this is just about to start.
Planting the future
There’s no doubt plantain is shaping up as a key tool for nitrogen management. Equally, however, scientists recognise getting enough of it in our pastures to help meet target reductions in nitrate leaching presents challenges on-farm.
So when the Trust decided to include plantain in its ‘future’ herd programme at Gibson Farm, it was a great chance to trial direct-drilling as a way of establishing and maintaining our cool-season cultivar Captain in a ryegrass and white clover mix.
Direct drilling is not as easy as broadcasting! But science indicates it’s more effective. We start with 8 kg/ha Captain, plus 2 kg/ha Kotuku white clover, direct drilled into existing pasture in spring. Then we come back a year later, and follow-up with 2kg/ha each of Captain and Kotuku.
You can learn more about this next time you visit Gibson. Our key takeaway so far, however, is that success relies strongly on post-sowing management.
Making ryegrass (even) better
Have you ever wished you could combine the high energy deliciousness of a tetraploid ryegrass pasture with the robustness of a diploid? Your cows probably have! This season, the girls at Kavanagh and Waimate West will get a taste of the result.
That’s because new pastures sown in autumn on these farms contain both 4front tetraploid ryegrass, and Maxsyn diploid ryegrass. It probably sounds counter-intuitive, but experience shows us together they create future-friendly grazing with benefits that might surprise you.
4front brings easy, nutritious eating to the table; Maxsyn brings durability. Both have high yield. The magic lies in better utilisation of these pastures; easier grazing management and ultimately more efficient use of every blade of grass.
Kavanagh is transitioning back from autumn to spring calving; Waimate West continues its emphasis on 100% farm grown feed, so you can see how the 4front and Maxsyn mix works in two different settings.
Bring on the brassicas
If you’re starting to think about sowing summer crops, you’re not alone. Brassicas are definitely on our to-do list this spring. Details have yet to be finalised, but Dynamo turnips will feature once again after cracker crops last season
One of the reasons we’ve used Dynamo, on both Gibson and Kavanagh, is that it gives plenty of low cost, high quality farm grown feed over summer when pasture typically struggles. It also seems to hold leaf quality a bit longer into the season.
Our new easy graze kale, Bombardier, has now shown for two years running it can be used as a good complement to turnips for summer feed, so it may be in the mix again as well this season.