Filling the summer gap

Filling the summer gap

To get through dry summers, Owl Farm in Cambridge is filling the feed supply gap with Cleancrop™ brassicas.

In the heart of the Waikato, Owl Farm is spread across 145 hectares (ha) and milking over 400 cows.

Set up around five years ago, the farm is a joint venture between Cambridge's St Peters School and Lincoln University. The purpose of the farm is to demonstrate key principles of dairy farming in New Zealand and offer educational opportunities for students across the country.

It does this with six key partners, including PGG Wrightson Seeds and Fonterra Farm Source.

Come summer, one of the learning opportunities the farm provides is how to fill the feed supply gap.

Tom Buckley, manager at Owl Farm, says the farm has great grass supply through spring but when summer hits, it starts to dry out. To continue to provide high-quality feed and sustain animal performance, they need to bolster feed supply.

Cam Neeld, Cambridge Farm Source TSR, says it's common to be shy on summer feed across the Waikato region given its dry summers. When looking at summer feed solutions for Owl Farm, he says the farm is suited to a brassica-type system as it doesn’t have the land area for a lot of chicory.

With that said, for the last few years, the farm has been using the PGG Wrightson Seed' Cleancrop™️ brassica range and last year, they added Cleancrop™ turnips and Cleancrop™ kale.

When adding turnips, Owl Farm has paired two of the Cleancrop™ summer turnips, the Toto turnip and bulb turnip.

Toto turnip is the latest release in the Cleancrop™️ Brassica System range. It's bred to be an early maturing (55-90 days), high-yielding summer turnip, and is tankard in shape with excellent utilisation.

Meanwhile, the Cleancrop™ bulb turnip has a later maturity (80-110 days), giving an extended period of feeding. By pairing the two types of turnips, Owl Farm has the potential for 60 days of feed by planting 2.5 hectares (ha) of turnips per 100 cows - based on the assumption of a 10.5 tonnes of dry matter per hectare (tDM/ha) yield and feeding four kilograms (kg) per cow per day with 90 percent crop utilisation.

Another benefit of the Cleancrop™ Brassica System is that it's a crop and weed management solution all in one. It combines the strength of broad spectrum Telar® herbicide with plants bred to tolerate it. Not only does it target the farm's 12 key problem weeds, it eliminates 23 hard to control weeds at the time of sowing.

Cam says the region is prone to weeds such as Hedge Mustard and Shepherd's Purse, the Cleancrop™ Brassica System's unique seed and herbicide package is a great way to control these hard to kill brassica weeds. "One of the hardest pressures on a crop is weed burden and getting on top of that and controlling it to enable the crop to yield to its full potential," Cam says.

The system allows Owl Farm to control key problem weeds within 48 hours of sowing, freeing up more moisture and nutrients for plants at the critical time of establishment.

With weeds repressed from germinating, Owl Farm has eight to ten weeks to get canopy closure to shade out weeds and stop them right throughout the crop.

Tom has been impressed with the results.

"Cleancrop™ brassicas have offered a great opportunity for us to manage our brassica weeds within our pasture," he says.

"With the Telar® spray, we're able to hit those 12 key weeds that we've got. Once the turnips have come out, we're able to grow really good, clean pastures in those paddocks without that burden of weeds."

For more info on what you can do now to fill the feed gap over summer talk to your local Farm Source TSR or visit nzfarmsource.co.nz/spring