With soil temperatures declining and growers still yet to sow some paddocks that require quick feed, there are limited options available. The options can include cereals or annual ryegrasses, depending on your individual situation.
Basically, there is a cereal (oats, wheat, triticale and barley) variety for just about every end use and of course there is a number of annual/Italian ryegrasses available as well. But if you are sowing late ( June, July) then you need to choose a very early (or very quick maturing) product that can produce good early vigour for grazing and still have an option for silage production.
The better the early vigour of a variety, the shorter the time to the first grazing. In general barley has better early vigour than oats, which in turn is superior to wheat and triticale. Assuming a June/July sowing, barley also tillers better than oats and other cereals giving a more reliable recovery after grazing. The only down side to sowing barley is it can’t tolerate wet or waterlogged conditions, so pick a paddock that is free draining for good results.
The use of annual/Italian ryegrasses are a better option if the paddock has a tendency to get wet during the winter/spring months. The first grazing will not be as early but will be better suited in this situation.
A forage barley available this year is Pacific Ranger barley. This variety is ideally suited to late sowings due to its quick maturing (90-100 days) and fast establishment to produce a bulk of high quality feed quickly.
First grazing of Pacific Ranger barley should be when the plant starts tillering and making new stems, this usually starts when the plant has four true leaves. A simple pluck test will be able to tell you if it is advanced enough for grazing. Simply grab a plant at about the anticipated grazing height and pull and twist it and if it snaps off it should be okay to graze but if it pulls out of the ground it isn’t ready yet. Repeat this a few times over the whole paddock. Sow with 100kg/Ha of DAP fertiliser to get a quicker and more uniform establishment so you can get to the initial grazing sooner. Application of nitrogen after grazing is recommended if the plants are low tillering or pale green in colour.
Another benefit of the quick maturing Pacific Ranger barley is the opportunity for a silage cut in the spring if required. If this is the case then only one grazing is recommended. It is important to stop grazing at stem elongation which starts when the plant has 6-7 leaves on the main stem (not counting any of the tillers). The first visible sign of this is the first node stage which is a visible bump or swelling 1-2cm off the ground.
The best time to cut for silage is in the flag leaf to boot stage (head emergence) for maximum protein and energy levels. Refer to the graph below. (Source, Pacific Seeds Ranger barley factsheet)
Due to its early maturing for grazing and silage production, Pacific Ranger barley also has excellent suitability for double cropping. It has the potential to spring sow a summer crop after the silage has been harvested. This would be a great option if the paddock has a history of weeds which would be more effectively controlled with two knockdowns within the one year. This then would enable the paddock to be sown down to a permanent pasture the following autumn.
For further information on Pacific Ranger forage barley please contact your local SPS territory Manager.