In NSW dairy farmer Steve Skinner’s view, an ideal ryegrass starts early in the season, finishes late and provides strong growth to drive milk productivity through the winter months.
Steve runs the property ‘Wembley Park’ with his brothers Tom and Mat on the southern boundaries of Dubbo, a fourth-generation dairy operation, which is milking around 750 cows on 1600 hectares of country.
The Skinners grow pastures under centre pivot irrigators, with kikuyu the dominant species through summer, while ryegrass takes over in the colder months.
Steve has grown Thumpa tetraploid Italian ryegrass from AusWest Seeds since 2014, sowing the variety in a mix with five per cent clover to maximise productivity.
Thumpa is a fast-establishing ryegrass which is ideal for both grazing and silage production. Importantly, it also provides both early season winter growth and high quality, late season forage.
“We are always on the lookout for newer improved ryegrasses that last a little bit longer, start a little bit earlier or produce a little bit more through the winter when it is really cold and growth rates are reduced,” he explains.
“We like to trial new varieties - each new one they come out with seems to be a little bit better. Thumpa is a good example of that - in the first year it was pretty good, it basically did everything we needed, so we stuck with it again."
The Skinners have planted 60 hectares of Thumpa across four paddocks, with the variety the only ryegrass grown on ‘Wembley Park’.
“2017 was a very dry winter, yet the cows still milked well all season while grazing Thumpa,” Steve says. “At one stage we looked like we weren’t going to get any silage from the variety, but rain late in the season meant we were cutting silage until Christmas time, so we still had a really good year.”
The Skinners cut 177 bales off a 12-hectare paddock in November 2017, 335 bales off a 20-hectare paddock in December, followed by a further 142 bales off another 14-hectare paddock in the same month.
With the good results he’s achieved from his Thumpa ryegrass in winter and kikuyu in summer pasture system, Steve has solid reasons for making Thumpa the only ryegrass variety on his property.
“Overall, Thumpa ryegrass is a great option for pasture compared to other competitors and provides optimum feed for livestock,” he says.