BY: TONY LEGGETT
A dual-species multi-graze forage crop system has been developed to meet new environmental demands and provide improved management flexibility for a full year.
H & T Agronomics business manager Duncan Thomas says the recently announced winter grazing management guidelines led the company to develop a new approach to forage cropping, comprising a herb and leafy brassica sown together.
“We’ve been advising our clients on this for a while now and found it has the flexibility to fit several different farm systems across any region of the country.”
Farmers can tune their management of the crop to cope with changing weather and livestock markets by altering the frequency of grazing to suit the conditions or take opportunities to enter markets quickly to gain improved margins. By varying the grazing frequency, the crop can be managed to be dominant in either component. If it’s grazed frequently to a low level, the composition of the resulting crop becomes more herb dominant. Graze it less frequently and the leafy brassica component starts to shade out the herb.
“Some farmers are just grazing it more lightly and removing say three tonnes of dry matter per hectare off a 15t/ha crop. Or they can take it right down if they need to, and the herb responds quickly to any moisture and shoots away.”
The new forage package is called Fusion. Thomas won’t reveal the actual seed components in the dual mix, but it comprises a widely-used herb with proven ability to reduce the level of nitrate released on to soils, plus a commonly sown leafy brassica that doesn’t have a ripening period and can be consumed soon after establishment.
“A big concern these days is N leaching where stock is intensively grazing paddocks, and where the ground is grazed to the point of being bare and you get a much higher risk of run-off occurring. Fusion is able to lower the risk of both these issues,” Thomas says.
“So, this will also help with the welfare aspect of what the Government is seeking from farmers who are cropping their easier country this way.”
His colleagues Fred Milford-Cottam and Paul Oliver were closely involved with the committee that advised and made recommendations to the Government on winter grazing.
Milford-Cottam says providing a mix that mitigates the environmental and animal welfare requirements was paramount in their development of Fusion. Fusion seed mixes are pre-treated with H & T’s proprietary slug-repellant coating called Rappel which studies have shown improves establishment rates and viable plant populations in the resulting crop. To minimise soil disturbance, the company recommends direct drilling the mix, rather than going through a full cultivation.