Words: Bruce Paterson and Janelle Gillum, Barenbrug
Happy, healthy animals, tucking into lush green grass, with a beautiful mountain in the background – it’s the classic image of rural Taranaki.
Look closer, however, and the ‘grass’ becomes a mixed leafy salad, full of many different plants. This is a new version of that classic rural image.
And it’s starting to pop up more often, not just here in Taranaki but elsewhere, as more people experiment with their pastures.
You might be one of those people! Or you might have heard about diverse pastures and wondered if they would suit your farm.
Maybe you feel like your traditional mix of perennial ryegrass and clover isn’t doing as well as it should be in some situations.
Maybe you’re looking ahead and thinking about how to make your farm more resilient in a less predictable climate.
No matter which direction you’re coming from, wouldn’t it be handy get a bit more information on multi-species pastures from your own backyard, grown in local soil under local conditions?
We know there’s increasing interest here in pasture diversity.
Perennial ryegrass and white clover have served Taranaki well for many years, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look to increase the value those pastures add to your farm.
You’re probably aware we have specialised in breeding ryegrass and clover for New Zealand farms for decades. What you may not know is that we are also working on many other forage species.
Like our ryegrasses (and our clovers), these have all been carefully tested for their ability to deliver in New Zealand conditions.
So last spring, we mixed some of them up with different ryegrasses and clovers, and started an experiment here in Taranaki to see how they would go.
What did we use? Maxsyn and Rohan perennial ryegrass. Safin fine leaved cocksfoot. Tabu+ Italian ryegrass. Bareno grazing brome. Captain cool season plantain. 501 Chicory. Timothy. Kotuku and Weka white clover. Morrow red clover. Laser Persian clover. Coolamon sub-clover.
All of these have been selected to complement each other, grow at different times of the year, and give tasty, high quality feed for your animals.
They’ve only been in the ground – at Dairy Trust Taranaki’s Waimate West – for a few months, so it’s very early days, and like any good experiment, it’s a case of watch and learn. Early results look promising.
Regardless of how this mix performs, however, two things make it worth watching. First, it’s being trialled here, not in another part of the country. Second, apart from the timothy, these are all known, certified pasture cultivars.