By- Peter Notman and Adam Fisher, Notman Pasture Seeds, Poowong
The aim on most farms would have to be more home-grown feed, therefore achieving a greater amount of total energy harvested per hectare.
With this in mind, the main ingredients need to be:
· Good plant coverage of ground
· The appropriate plant material
· Adequate soil fertility and condition, P, K, S, pH etc.
· Nitrogen at 1-1.5 kg/day when moisture is available.
· Have the correct stocking rate to consume the feed.
These are the known factors that influence pasture growth and consumption. Any of these that are under your control need to be addressed.
Setting targets dates for your pasture plan
February – Protect the most productive pastures. Plan resowing early. For annual grass seeds and barley grass areas, seek advice. Control weeds in finished crops. Soil test if required.
March – Pastures need to be short. Spray if required, add fertiliser and sow pasture seed. Rotation 22 to 30 days. Sacrifice paddocks can save pastures in an extremely dry season.
April – Continue sowing and monitor for pests, such as earth mites, lucerne fleas, grubs or slugs; take action if required. Graze when plants will not pull out. Consider using Barrier U2 endophyte if cockchafers or black beetles are a problem.
May – Again graze new pastures as early as possible, control weeds and pests, apply fertiliser. Rotation 25 to 35 days.
June – From then on graze, apply fertiliser. All weeds should now be controlled. Rotation 28 to 38 days.
Successful germination of seed depends on good contact between the seed and the soil to maximise soil moisture and nutrients.
For both direct drilling and conventional sowing, ensure seed and fertiliser are sown together at a depth of about 10mm.
Establishing rye-grass without clover
· Use DAP at 150kg/ha if Olsen P is below 20. If 20 – 25 use 80kg/ha. If 25+ use 20Kg/ha.
· Drill into soils to 1cm depth, preferably dry soils and low pasture cover.
· Spray green growing pasture with Glyphosate at 150 ml/ha; this would suit both dryland and irrigation when there is no more than 15 per cent fibrous rooted grasses.
If flood irrigation has a large amount of summer grasses such as paspalum and couch, cultivation after heavy Glyphosate application would be preferred.
· If spraying only, then increase sowing rate by 50 per cent. This method applies for dryland bent-grass areas also.
· In Gippsland, in high rainfall areas sow before mid-April. In low rainfall areas sow before the end of April. Worked soil gives better results.
· In the Macalister irrigation district it is important to have planted before mid-April, so plants can be established before frost cools soils.
· Seed rates: direct drilling 25kg/ha; cultivated soils 30kg/ha.
· Fertilise for high yields, growth for short terms up to 50kg DM/ha/day.
· Use Nitrogen at 25 – 40kg N per month if feed can be utilised.
· Phosphorus, potassium and sulphur – use soil test to determine rates.
· Control weeds such as Capeweed when plants are 25 to 50 mm high.
· Graze early, as soon as plants won’t pull out (75mm - 3 inches).
· Do not drill into soils with root mat.
Pasture establishment in root mat soils
Most root-mat soils have low soil PH. If PH is below 5.4 (water) apply 2.5 tonne/ha of fine lime and incorporate this into the soil prior to planting. Not controlling existing pasture or not breaking down root mat often causes failures when direct drilling pastures.
The use of a high application rate of Glyphosate followed 10 days later by two passes with a disc; this could be followed by a power harrow and a seed box.
The soil clump size should not be more than 5cm.
After sowing, harrow with mesh and roll.
Planting pastures in irrigated soils
The planting window is wide for spray irrigation, from mid to late February to late April.
The ideal timing to optimise the result is considered to be mid-March for autumn.
If flood irrigation has a large amount of summer grasses such as paspalum and couch, cultivation after heavy Glyphosate application would be preferred; if spraying only, increase sowing rate by 50 per cent. When there is no more than 15 per cent of the area covered with fibrous rooted grasses and pasture cover is low, spray pasture with Glyphosate at 150ml/ha; the next day pasture can be drilled then irrigated. About eight to 10 days later this can be grazed. Apply fertiliser as per standard recommendations.Permanent pasture is still the mainstay feed of the Gippsland dairy industry, and protecting pastures from over-grazing and weed infestation is of utmost importance. There is great opportunity to increase yield in general but I believe in July growth rates of 40kg/ha should be achieved therefore achieving one tonne of pasture grown per month during this period.