Management

Fill summer feed gap

By Dairy News

ITALIAN RYE-GRASS Concord II could suit dairy farmers looking to fill a potential feed gap over summer, according to PGG Wrightson Seeds.

PGG Wrightson Seeds pasture agronomist Matt Carracher said more farmers are planting cereals to fill winter feed needs.

“Their early finish creates a feed gap,” he said. “Spring sowing with an Italian rye-grass can help to fill that gap.

“It’s not only the planting of winter crops that can create sparse spring paddocks.

“Everything from increased pugging and insect pressure to the spraying of weeds can lead to reduced plant numbers.”

Mr Carracher said the introduction of an Italian rye-grass like Concord II can help.

“Spring-sown grasses tend to perform very well, because the days are getting longer, soil temperatures are rising and weeds and insects are easier to control, which leads to much better establishment,” he said.

“With many previous Italian rye-grasses generally offering good seedling vigour, but inferior persistence, Concord II is much more resilient and flexible, allowing it to be used in many more situations.

“Concord II is bred for its speed of establishment. It’s very fast out of the ground, which means farmers can have the paddock back in rotation very quickly.

“It’s also able to persist into the second year, unlike some other Italian rye-grass. And being a diploid rye-grass, it’s very hardy, and will stand up to challenging conditions.”

Concord II is a late-heading variety and remains vegetative quite late in the season, retaining high levels of energy and protein.

Dairy farmer Jed Boshier, Timboon, Victoria, has already experienced the benefits of spring-sowing Concord II.

“Concord II has given us top quality silage and hay to fill the summer feed gap,” Mr Boshier said. “Plant growth was certainly better than we expected during last spring. It has proved great for milk production and growth rates in our younger stock”.

Mr Boshier planted Concord II for dryland dairy pastures in late August, which yielded 10 tonnes per hectare over the season.

“I like the Italian rye-grass because of its fast establishment, high regrowth rates and its ability to persist under moderate heat stress,” he said.

“It has made great quality silage, some of the best we’ve ever cut.

“We were also able to take a second cut of hay before Christmas and fed young stock on returned regrowth later in the summer.

“Harvesting good quality silage is one thing we can control, and if we do this right, then we know we’ve got guaranteed milk production in unfavourable conditions.”

Mr Carracher said Concord II’s vigorous establishment means that farmers can spring-sow with greater confidence, knowing that the grass will establish early, before it gets too dry over the summer.

However, he said hot, dry conditions can prove challenging for the persistence of Italian rye-grass through summer.

“In some more unforgiving environments, it may be more beneficial to consider planting a perennial rye-grass or summer crop. Your local PGG Wrightson Seeds sales agronomist can help you determine the best approach for your needs.”

Mr Carracher said because early grazing management has a large bearing on increased yield and productivity, a light grazing across the establishing pasture, ideally at the early tillering stage, is recommended.

• Article supplied by PGG Wrightson Seeds.