Uplands Hispanic Cocksfoot adds balance and diversity to perennial pastures

The addition of Uplands Hispanic cocksfoot is providing balance and diversity to the traditional phalaris/sub-clover based pastures in southern NSW.

In recent years changes have been made to even out both the quantity and quality of the feed base in a predominantly first and second cross lamb enterprise at Mangoplah in Southern NSW for brothers Bernard and Kevin McRae. Traditionally the McRae’s farms “Spring Valley” and “Affa” pasture base has been mixed phalaris and sub clover, which is common to the region.

The changes include the introduction of Winfred forage brassica and Choice chicory as a companion herb, and the addition of newer perennial grass species such as Uplands Hispanic cocksfoot and Exceltas coloured brome.
Bernard McRae inspects a mixed Uplands Hispanic cocksfoot pasture
Bernard McRae inspects a mixed Uplands Hispanic cocksfoot pasture

Although it is early days Bernard is impressed with the semi-dormant Uplands Hispanic cocksfoot, not only for its fine soft leaves and palatability, but also its ability to provide green feed later in the spring and into summer depending on rainfall. By eliminating common type Australian phalaris from pasture mixes, and using the winter active phalaris varieties such as Advanced AT and Holdfast GT,  the addition of Uplands Hispanic cocksfoot and Exceltas coloured brome has not only boosted winter feed production, but extended the feed supply later into the season. The Uplands Hispanic cocksfoot and Exceltas coloured brome stayed green well into the 2014/15 summer despite little rain. They also provide a safety net in reducing the risk of phalaris poisoning that can occur with opening rains after a dry autumn.

Bernard said the recommendations on pasture and forage crop species, varieties and sowing rates are left to the experienced team at Auswest Seeds. The local AgNVet team at Mangoplah also provide invaluable agronomic advice.

In the past the McRae’s pastures were generally sown with a cover crop of Mitika oats. Pastures are now treated as a separate entity and sown without a cover crop.

Uplands Hispanic cocksfoot shows strong establishment in this mixed pasture at Mangoplah
Uplands Hispanic cocksfoot shows strong establishment in this mixed pasture at Mangoplah

One of the biggest factors leading to improved pasture establishment success recently has been prior planning and using forage brassica for grass weed control and early sowing. Pasture sowing rates have also been increased and all seed sown, including grasses and legumes, is Kickstart® treated. If the  pastures can be sown  in April they can be lightly grazed by late July.

The pasture mix the brothers chose to sow in 2014 at  included Advanced AT phalaris  Holdfast GT phalaris  Uplands cocksfoot , Exceltas coloured brome , Arrotas Arrowleaf clover , Viper balansa clover, Riverina sub clover, Coolamon sub clover  and a Trikkala/Woogenellup sub clover mix.

Bernard said, “The mild autumn of 2014 aided establishment. The performance of this pasture so far has been exceptional, and we are looking to increase the percentages of Uplands cocksfoot   and the Exceltas coloured brome in the mix next time we sow.”

The first year seed set of the sub clover is also important as they are the drivers of the pasture for the next 15 years. The addition of Arrowleaf and Balansa not only extends the growing period but also caters for the wetter areas in some paddocks.

Early sown dual-purpose oats are still used by the McRaes to fill the late autumn, early winter feed gap in what is a winter effective 600-650 mm rainfall region with acid-soils. Some of the NSW DPI’s original acid soils research was conducted on “Spring Valley” in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The research showed soil pH, on the farm, without the addition of lime can be as low as 4.30-4.40 (CaCl2). Liming, combined with the growing of acid tolerant crop and pasture species, is essential for good crop and pasture performance along with good nutrition.

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