Farm advisers are being encouraged to recommend farmers sow Mainstar forage brassica this spring for high quality, abundant feed ready for summer and autumn grazing.
Released in 2018, Mainstar forage brassica has quickly become a firm favourite for summer forage programs and as a first step to pasture renovation on sheep, beef and dairy farms across southern Australia.
Michael Grant, Territory Manager with Stephen Pasture Seeds based in Western Victoria, said Mainstar provided a fast track to abundant summer/autumn feed, with better palatability and improved aphid tolerance than older brassica varieties.
“Animals adjust quickly to grazing Mainstar forage brassica, which means rapid improvements in liveweight gains and milk production,” he said.
“We’ve seen this in a number of demonstration paddocks where farmers sowed paddocks with half Mainstar and half of their previous brassica variety – the stock preferentially grazed the Mainstar side every time.”
He said farmers could use Mainstar for finishing young stock in early summer or as a post-weaning feed source, with excellent liveweight gains in lambs of between 150 and 300 grams/head/day or 0.8 to 1.2 kg/head/day in cattle.
Dairy farmers can also expect increased milk production thanks to the high nutritional value of Mainstar.
“A leafy crop of Mainstar forage brassica can provide abundant feed in summer and autumn, when most other pastures have dried down and farmers are starting to see feed shortages.
“This additional feed puts farmers in a good position to protect their valuable perennial pastures from overgrazing.”
Another point of difference for Mainstar compared with older forage brassica varieties is its improved aphid tolerance, according to Mr Grant.
“In situations where farmers have moved away from growing forage brassica because of damaging aphid attacks, Mainstar provides an opportunity to return to the crop,” he said.
He said farm advisers and agronomists had a major role to play beyond just recommending Mainstar forage brassica this spring, but including advice on successful sowing and appropriate grazing management to help farmers make the most of the cropping opportunity.
Mainstar forage brassica can be sown at rates of 3 to 4 kg/ha as a straight crop or sown at half rates with perennial grazing herbs such as Ecotain® environmental plantain or Choice chicory, for greater mineral availability to the grazing animals.
The crop grows best with reliable moisture and medium to high soil fertility. Weeds should be controlled prior to sowing with a knockdown herbicide and cultivation.
Mainstar can be planted any time from August to November, but farmers and advisers should factor in ten to twelve weeks from sowing to grazing, as forage brassica crops need to ripen before they are grazed.
“Mainstar is ready to graze when the leaf margins start turning bronze or purple, generally after the plants have been through a heat or moisture stress period,” said Mr Grant.
Care also needs to be taken during grazing to protect the crop’s regrowth potential.
“Because it is so palatable, animals have a tendency to eat the stems as well as the leaves,” he explained.
“Where possible, we suggest growing two smaller paddocks of Mainstar rather than one bigger paddock to allow better grazing flexibility.”
Mr Grant said Mainstar offered excellent regrowth potential and could be carried through for grazing in late autumn or even winter if desired.
“Alternatively, the forage crop can be grazed out to allow a seamless transition to the establishment of new ryegrass pastures in autumn,” he said.
“By going straight into a pasture from a summer crop, there is minimal paddock preparation required and low weed pressure.
“Pastures like the new Manta Italian diploid ryegrass, Mohaka tetraploid hybrid ryegrass or Legion perennial ryegrass can all provide outstanding dry matter production and high-quality feed straight after the forage crop.”
To find out more about growing summer forage brassica crops and pasture blends, contact your local AusWest Seeds or Stephen Pasture Seeds representative to discuss your farm requirements. Go to Mainstar forage brassica page to find more information about the product.