Oversowing approach boosts winter–spring production

Neil Martin, Kirkstall VIC

Neil, Virginia and Joan Martin, Kirkstall, Victoria are extending the productivity of their winter–spring pastures through a strategic oversowing program that utilises a highly-productive Italian ryegrass.

Knight is a short-term Italian ryegrass, designed to provide high-quality winter feed when many dairy farmers face a feed gap.

While traditional perennial pastures provide plentiful spring feed, it’s during the winter months that growth rates are slow and winter feed is at a premium. For the Martin family’s 300-cow dryland dairy operation, Knight is providing the best of both worlds — supporting multiple grazing opportunities throughout winter and forging on through spring to produce high-quality silage.

Neil Martin and his dog Bridget in a Knight Italian Ryegrass pasture
Neil Martin and his dog, Bridget - Knight Italian Ryegrass

Neil renovates about 80ha of his hay and silage paddocks each year, but this is the first time he has used Knight.

“Persistance in our perennial pastures over summer is always a challenge,” explained Neil. “Each autumn we renovate about three-quarters of our hay and silage paddocks by oversowing with a short-term ryegrass — just to give them a boost during winter and spring.”

“After being impressed with results achieved by our neighbours, this year we decided to give Knight a go and direct drilled a paddock identified for renovation at a rate of about 25kg/ha during late April, straight after the autumn break.

“Germination went really well — it was better than I have had before from any other variety I have tried.

“Our sowing contractor missed a strip in the paddock and even six weeks after sowing I could see the significant difference in feed where the Knight had come away — we started grazing two weeks later.

“We got two grazings from the paddock during winter and locked it up for silage around 20 August, cutting it during early October.”

Neil was thrilled with the results.

“The silage went really well — we cut about nine bales per hectare, with each bale weighing about a tonne wet weight,” Neil said.

“We’ll be using Knight again next year on more of our paddocks.”

According to Michael Grant, Stephen Pasture Seeds’ Western District area Manager, Neil’s experience with the new variety is not a one-off.

“Knight is the new diploid Italian ryegrass bred for Australian conditions.

High emphasis has been placed on quick establishment and increased autumn and winter yields.

“Knight has also been bred to mature later than most other varieties, so it can hang on longer than most, providing high-quality feed well into spring.

“In a good year it can support multiple winter grazings and continue on to produce a high-quality silage or hay cut.”

According to Michael, in addition to it’s impressing productivity and staying power, Knight has shown improved persistence, rust tolerance and lower aftermath seed head in comparison to other commercially available diploid varieties. 

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