Winter milk production often means using a lot of supplement to keep autumn calving cows well fed through the colder months of the year.
One South Waikato family, however, is instead aiming to fill much of that feed requirement with high yielding hybrid ryegrass pasture and so far, the plan is off to a good start.
Last autumn the Watkins brothers of Tirau planted large areas of Shogun hybrid ryegrass. They undersowed it into 100ha of existing pasture and also sowed 60ha as a straight sward into ex summer crop paddocks at 40kg seed/ha.
Alan recommended Shogun for their situation because of its strong winter growth potential as well as its high year-round dry matter (DM) yield.
“We were going into our first season of autumn calving; we knew we would have a feed deficit and we wanted to replace some of our PK imports with pasture,” Simon Watkins explains.
By December, the straight Shogun pasture was well on track for the Watkins’ goal of growing 20t DM/ha in year one.
“We’ve been recording it with a tow-behind pasture meter all season. It was doing 60kg DM/ha/day through June; the lowest it got down to was 30kg DM/ha/day in July and it’s never looked back. We’ve recorded it at 140kg DM/ha/day for two months in a row.”
Sown on the farm’s effluent block, the straight Shogun had one dressing of 1.5t chicken manure, one round of effluent and 30 units/ha of nitrogen to keep it well fed. The Wilkins graze it as soon as it gets to the 2.5-3 leaf stage, and target consistent post-grazing residuals of 1500kg DM/ha to maintain quality.
Simon Watkins says the new grass has met their budgeted growth cost of 4c/kg DM in year one, and because of its high yield and quality, it will still be very cost effective to undersow with more Shogun seed after year two.
Essentially it has become a ‘crop’, he says: “We used to feed approximately 1/3 chicory, 1/3 PKE and silage and 1/3 grass, but now we’re trying to push as much of that to grass as possible.”
The Watkins farm is made up of two adjacent milking platforms of 180ha (effective), each with its own shed and herd. A further 120ha support land enables the family to be totally self-contained.
A thousand cows are in milk this season, of which 600 are autumn calvers. Budgeted total milksolids (MS) production is 400,000kg.
Feed inputs include 40ha of maize for silage, grown on farm, plus approximately 250t of PKE. Chicory crops have been dropped in favour of Shogun.
To find out more about Shogun hybrid ryegrass, and its potential on your farm, talk to your local Barenbrug Area Manager: http://www.Barenbrug.co.nz/contact/Barenbrug-field-team or download a brochure here: