Having seen the performance of annual ryegrass varieties drop over the years on his Victorian property ‘Challicum South’, Richard Morgan needed a new strategy to ensure quality feed for his cattle during winter.
The Ararat farmer, who runs a mixed farming operation consisting of Poll Hereford cattle and crop, turned to Knight Italian ryegrass from Stephen Pasture Seeds in 2016, and hasn’t looked back.
Richard first sowed 34 hectares of Knight in April 2016 at 15kg/ha, treated with Kickstart and drilled with 90kg/ha of MAP. However, expected rain didn’t eventuate until 27mm fell in early May.
“Once it got the rain, the Knight established very quickly, jumping out of the ground absolutely perfectly and on the 22nd July, 99 Poll Hereford cow/calves started grazing the paddock, it provided phenomenal feed through winter,” Richard says.
The stock were taken out in early September, before the paddock was cut for hay in November 2016, producing 443 round bales and 1000 small square bales. This equated to approximately six tonnes of dry matter per hectare.
Aside from the high levels of feed and hay production, Richard says a key benefit of Knight has been its persistence.
“After the excellent break to the season in 2017, our stand of Knight recovered well and was ready to be grazed in May for a second year,” he explains.
“However, we didn’t need to cut hay at the end of the 2017 season, because our sheds were still full from the first cut in 2016.
“We are really happy with the longevity of Knight, because we’ve definitely got two years out of it and we still could get a third year of productivity in 2018,” he explains.
The performance of the original stand, established in 2016, has prompted Richard to sow another 60 hectares of Knight in May 2017.
“We got the perfect start, with 50mm of rain within a week of sowing and the feed we got out of that stand of Knight has been absolutely phenomenal, so much so that our Stephen Pasture Seeds Territory Manager, Michael Grant, advised us to put more cattle on,” Richard says.
“We initially grazed 118 heifers for eight weeks on joining, before they were swapped over with nearly 150 cows plus calves on 60 hectares for another couple of months.
“We got tremendous feed out of that stand, which held its quality until late in the season, with those cattle remaining in that particular paddock up until the end of 2017.”
“The big difference is Knight’s ability to not only grow bulk winter feed, but also stay leafy late in the season which is great for stock performance through to early summer, compared to the more traditional early seeding annuals we have used in the past.”
Moving forward, Knight Italian ryegrass will remain a key component of the strategy to provide bulk feed during the season on ‘Challicum South’.