Winter grass growth is always welcome, no matter where you farm. But in the 100+ day winters of Northern Southland, it’s a rare gift.
Unless, that is, you sow a couple of paddocks in high powered hybrid ryegrass bred to shrug off the cold. In which case, if you’re red meat producer James McKee, you get excited.
By mid-August, while perennial pastures were still at a standstill, autumn-sown Forge from Barenbrug was ‘looking fantastic’ at Rathfriland, the fourth-generation McKee farm at Waikaia.
“We grazed it with sheep six weeks ago, and there’s probably four to five inches of grass in there now. It’s pretty exciting seeing that sort of winter growth in our district.”
The McKees had already tested Forge on a second property at Balfour.
Carefully grazed, an earlier hybrid from the same stable – Shogun – persisted for up to five years, and they wanted to see if they could get Forge to last even longer.
Why? “That extra feed gives us more options,” James says. “They leap out of the ground, these hybrids, and they keep moving on the shoulders of the season.
“If we can get five, six or seven years out of Forge, use it like a perennial but with extra tonnes of dry matter every year, that’s worth a lot to us.”
With 10,000 stock units across three farms, and aiming to finish most surplus lambs from a total flock of 6000 ewes, James says they very rarely have too much feed, and he’s always keen to try new ways of growing more dry matter per ha.
Quality matters too – both Shogun and Forge are high energy tetraploid hybrids, which naturally team well with clover.
Sown on their better, easier to drill soils, Forge has a good fit with fast-growing, high value animals like finishing lambs and ewe replacements.
Likewise, it’s welcome flushing feed in autumn for two-tooths, and condition scored mixed age ewes that need to gain weight before mating.
The only caveat is no overgrazing: “Your management has to be very good.”
Forge is our latest hybrid ryegrass. It grows 14% more dry matter than any other hybrid, and around 1.6 tonnes of extra dry matter per ha, per year, over a high performance perennial ryegrass.
Seed for Forge is available now for spring sowing. Order yours from your seed merchant today.