South West Victorian dairyfarmer, Con Glennen, couldn’t have had a tougher season to evaluate the new Italian ryegrass, Knight, on his farm.
While the variety was expected to produce strong autumn and winter yields, last year’s dry autumn meant that the seed which was direct drilled in late March didn’t germinate until June.
“It was the worst autumn I have seen in 22 years farming at Noorat,” Mr Glennen said.
He and his wife Michelle milk 350 jersey cows, calving in autumn and spring to supply Fonterra.
They were among a select few who had the chance to personally evaluate the new diploid Italian ryegrass variety before its official release in January this year.
After growing Crusader for many years, Mr Glennen says Knight seems to be the ‘next step’ in Italian ryegrass.
To compare the two he grew three paddocks in a row – one Knight, one Crusader and another Knight. Each was sown as a straight.
“From all reports, it is expected to grow an extra 650 kg/ha of dry matter over the year, which is a good increase on our usual 7 t/ha dry matter from Crusader in an average season,” he said.
So after waiting, waiting and more waiting, the new pasture seed finally received opening rains in June.
It proved to be a fast establishing variety.
“Knight was quicker out of the ground than Crusader, which meant there was more feed at first grazing,” Mr Glennen said.
“It was very similar to look at through early spring and spring, but the Knight held on longer before going to head later in spring.”
Michael Grant, Technical Sales Manager for Stephen Pasture Seeds, said it was a tall order to improve on Crusader, but Knight had been selected to replace it because of its rapid establishment capabilities and outstanding autumn and winter yields.
“Knight’s quick speed out of the ground means the pasture is up and growing quickly to produce strong autumn and winter yields,” he said.
“This speed of growth also makes Knight ideal for pasture renovation because it is such an aggressive competitor to weeds.”
Mr Glennen chooses Italian ryegrass for the dry volcanic stone country on his farm to maximise pasture yields from the area. Perennial ryegrass is not considered, as it will not persist in these paddocks.
Italian ryegrass is sown each autumn, usually as a stand-alone straight grass in the paddock.
“By sowing Knight by itself, we have the opportunity to clean up any capeweed, marshmallow and broadleaf weeds,” he explained.
The Italian ryegrass is sown with 130 kg/ha of DAP and regularly topdressed with urea.
Mr Glennen expects 7 t/ha of dry matter from the pastures over an average season.
The story is different on nearly half the farm where irrigation is available. Here, on the black and grey loam soils, he prefers One50 perennial ryegrass and clover, but also grows Avalon with clover and some Winfred brassicas for summer fodder.
“We are converting to One50 and clover as quickly as we can, so we can maximise productivity,” Mr Glennen said.
“Anything we can do to grow more grass helps us to maximise milk production and improve our gross margin,” he said. “We also use a lot of urea to boost pasture growth.”
Focusing on pasture production is reaping good returns for the Glennens.
“Our jerseys provide good conversion efficiency with milk solids of 600 kg per cow and up to 25 litres of milk per cow in spring and 22 litres per cow in summer,” he said.
They have the number two jersey herd in the country and a long history on the property. Con’s grandfather settled the dairy farm 90 years ago and Con’s uncles, Con and Jack still live on the farm.
Mr Glennen says the farm is already in better shape than this time last year, with hay and silage at the ready and the warm weather boosting pasture growth in irrigated areas.
His order for Knight is already in and he is hopeful of a better start to the season than last year.
Originally published Feb 2014