With a need for a feed wedge through winter for autumn-calving cows and good silage for summer, selecting the right ryegrass is vital for Victorian dairy farmer Jim Fleming.
Running 300 dairy cows and a beef herd at Willung in central Gippsland, the fact the property is dryland means pasture varieties also need to be hardy.
Jim started growing Knight Italian ryegrass from Stephen Pasture Seeds when it was first released in 2014, after a recommendation from his agronomist.
“I initially selected Knight for its persistence, as I wanted to see my Italian ryegrass carry through to the second year,” he explains.
“That first year I sowed 40 hectares and the performance was impressive, so I then planted another 50 hectares the following year in different paddocks.”
Knight has now become the key ryegrass variety on Jim’s property, and is generally planted in late March, depending on rain.
“The first year we were grazing Knight by mid-May and then once it’s up and established with a bit of nitrogen, we graze it through winter on a 21-day rotation,” Jim says. “In the spring that speeds right up, and then we start locking areas of Knight up for silage production.”
“Knight allows us to create a feed wedge to rotationally graze our autumn-calving cows, and produces good leafy regrowth to hold that quality of feed well between grazing.”
In the first year Jim cut 400 rolls of silage off 25 hectares of Knight, before continuing to rotationally graze the paddock into summer.
“We produce a lot of round silage bales to shore us up over our dry summers, and that’s where the Knight fits well, making very good quality, leafy silage with a late hay-off.
“Importantly, the longevity of Knight is good, it bounces back really well into the next year with high plant populations, which is what we’re after.”
Jim’s long-term plan for the property is to re-sow paddocks down to permanent pasture after two years of Knight production, with pasture renovation becoming particularly important following the recent purchase of new land.
“We will however always have a stand of Italian ryegrass for the autumn, targeting rundown paddocks to rejuvenate,” he says.
“We’ll definitely sow Knight again in the 2018 autumn, we’ve got a few paddocks targeted already for sowing in March, depending on the weather.