Lucerne production is ramping up at a massive new fodder farm south of Chinchilla in Queensland and Titan 9 is a key part of its success.
In just a little over two years, farm manager Ken Schmidt has turned a dryland cropping farm in the Hopeland area and a grazing property a few kilometres further south into lush lucerne producing country.
With the transition into fodder production Mr Schmidt now has 220 hectares of lucerne growing under centre pivot irrigation.
“We hope to have 450 hectares of lucerne planted by the end of the year.”
Mr Schmidt moved to Chinchilla from the Brisbane Valley in 2011 to establish the operation and manage the farm.
“It is the perfect spot to grow lucerne,” he said. “There are plenty of dry days to make hay, the humidity is low and we have plenty of water.
“It does get a bit cool in winter, so that’s why we have planted a lot of winter active lucerne.”
He planted 70 hectares of Titan 9 winter active lucerne on Anzac Day in 2013 and has found it to be one of the better varieties for the farm.
“I tested several different varieties here because the growing conditions are different from what I’m used to and Titan 9 and Titan 7 are outperforming the rest,” he said.
“Their germination and plant establishment were brilliant, with nice thick plant stands and good yields.”
Yields have been consistently above 2 t/ha per cut, with cuts every month through summer.
Mr Schmidt said the yields tended to depend on the country, with Titan 9 averaging 2 t/ha per cut on the marginal sandy clay soil, but between 2 t/ha and 3 t/ha per cut on the black self-mulching clay.
Most of the lucerne is baled into large bales, and with the low humidity, the baling window lasts from around midnight until 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning.
“We are certainly operating on a big scale here,” he said. “I can mow a 46 hectare pivot in seven hours, rake it two or three times and then bale it in around five or six hours.
“We pick it up the next day and can be watering the block within 24 hours of baling.”
Mr Schmidt said Titan 9 came back well after cutting.
“The crown seems fairly robust and we’ve had no problems with tyre damage or disease,” he said.
“We have had to spray once for Heliothis, but with regular cutting, we’re keeping it under control.”
He is hoping to retain the Titan 9 stands for around four years before replanting.
In terms of quality, he said the lucerne was consistently rated AA and has seen growing market demand.
“The Titan 9 lucerne has a fine stem and good leaf retention,” he said. “We haven’t seen it going rank like some of the winter actives can do.
“A lot of our lucerne hay is good enough to cut into chaff, so it is quite suitable for the feedlots,” he said.
The farm is in close proximity to more than 20 feedlot operations.
Mr Schmidt said the scale of the operation was already significantly bigger than most lucerne farms, and believes it will eventually be one of the biggest in the country.
“We’re still ramping up production, but with varieties like Titan 9, plenty of water and dry days, things are looking good for this season,” he said.