Decisions for late season forage crops
04 July 2018
Glen Uebergang, Northern Tablelands LLS Mixed Farming Officer
With useful rainfall in many parts of the Northern Tablelands, landholders may be thinking about planting late season annual forage crops.
To reduce pressure on your perennial pastures and provide a bulk of quality feed it may be appropriate to plant forage crops such as oats, barley, triticale or ryegrass. Following are a few points for your consideration:
When planting forage crops late in the season the grazing potential is reduced as there is less time for vegetative growth before the spring heat and longer days arrive that accelerate plant maturity. The grazing loss from crops can be mitigated by increasing your usual sowing rate by 10-20% if soil moisture and nutrient allows.
Triticale will be the quickest to first grazing when planted at this time of year with barley slightly later by about 2 – 3 weeks, followed by oats and then winter wheats. Another influence on speed to first grazing is the maturity rating of the particular forage crop variety. Early maturing grazing varieties are quicker to grazing than late maturing grazing varieties. Sowing rates as mentioned above will also influence speed to first grazing.
The advantage of the late season varieties though, is that they can be grazed much later in the year with triticale and barley running to head early (mid to late Oct) whereas late maturing oats and winter wheats will provide feed through to roughly mid-December.
Another possible way of extending grazing is planting an annual ryegrass in a mix with your forage oats, triticale or barley to extend the grazing value of your paddocks later into the season. Awns on triticale and barley at heading can reduce grazing potential.
An alternative to planting cereal forage crops is forage brassicas. These have very small seeds so it is important that you are capable of planting them no deeper than 2cm. Forage brassicas are slow to establish if planted in the cooler months but if you wait until spring before planting, they can provide very useful feed over the summer months.
Decision making is difficult in tough seasonal conditions so I encourage you to keep your rational thinking cap on and consider soil moisture, weed pressure in your paddocks, soil health, plant nutritional requirements and appropriate grazing management.
Ensure logistics are in place such as access to seed, fertiliser and planting machinery. Early planning will assist you in making less stressful, more calculated and appropriate decisions for you, your livestock and your pastures.
Media contact: Annabelle Monie 0429 626 326 or 02 6720 8317.