Forage rape can be planted the earliest, particularly with irrigation. It is more heat tolerant compared to the autumn forage species and can be planted from February through to April, however the earlier it is sown the more yield you will carry into the winter. Autumn sown rape yields can range from 3-6tDM/ha, depending on the season. Most farms get a single grazing, however if mixed with a plantain, such as Tonic, the paddock can carry on through the following spring and into summer, providing high quality forage during this time. Plant Mainstar forage rape to provide mid to late winter bulk feed.
Forage oats provide rapid autumn bulk, they are a large seed and can be sown deeper than others, meaning they are less likely to strike in a false autumn break. They are also very fast to establish and can be sown from February to June. Forage oats can provide large amounts of bulk feed and can be mixed with annual and Italian ryegrasses to provide grazing longevity into the spring. Plant Austin or Bond oats for fast early winter feed. If you want the paddock to continue to grow, mix with an annual ryegrass like Mach 1.
The fit of each of the autumn sown forages and what they can provide you in terms of quality, longevity, bulk feed potential and speed to first grazing is summarised in the table below. It’s worth noting, that bulk feed relates to the amount of feed that can stand in the paddock, for example forage rape/brassica and oats are able to grow 5-8tDM/ha whereas Italians and Tonic are only able to grow 3.5-4tDM/ha. The regrowth potential relates to the ease of management required to get successful regrowth, with Italians and Tonic plantain regrowth is vigorous, whereas with oats or forage rape/brassica care is needed not to overgraze below the growing point in order to get successful regrowth.
Table 1: Comparison of various autumn sown winter forage options. Scale 1-5 star ratings.
|Speed to first graze||Regrowth potential/longevity||Bulk feed potential||Quality|
|Forage rape & plantain||Mainstar & Tonic||2 & 4 (respectively)||**||*****||****||*****|
|Oats||Austin (or Bond)||75-120||*****||**||*****||***|
|Annual ryegrass & oats||Mach 1 & Bond||20 & 60 (respectively)||*****||***||****||****|
|Annual ryegrass||Mach 1||25-35||****||***||***||*****|