Profit from more homegrown feed in Taranaki

Profit from more homegrown feed in Taranaki

1 February 2017

Getting new grass to last and perform in Taranaki’s peat soils started with careful establishment and special attention over the first winter on Robin Rye’s farm east of Eltham.

If all goes to plan, in the coming weeks Robin will again sow approximately 12 hectares (ha) of Trojan perennial ryegrass as part of ongoing pasture renewal aimed at improving productivity and reining in feed expenses on his 128 ha farm at Rawhitiroa.

Previously, Robin and his contract milkers Quentin and Karla Maindonald have fed up to 460 tonnes of palm kernel (PK) per year.

But the trio wanted to reduce costs and had almost achieved a 60 percent reduction in PK use last season until Taranaki’s unprecedented facial eczema outbreak in autumn.

Like many in the region, Robin says they’re still affected by that outbreak, both in reduced cow numbers and lower milksolids (MS) production.

A total of 365 cows are in milk this season, down from the long-term average of 380, and they’re targeting total MS production of 152,000 kilograms (kg). Facial eczema cut 2015/16 production to 143,000kg. At the height of PK supplementation in 2014/15, they reached 171,000kg MS.

Situated at the edge of the Taranaki ring plain, the farm comprises peat swamp flats and volcanic hills, some of which are too steep for tractor work. Annual rainfall is 1500 millimetres (mm). Soil fertility is good but the combination of contour, peat soils and winter/spring conditions that are often wet can be hard on pastures.

Robin uses summer turnips to maintain a high level of pasture renewal and introduced Trojan ryegrass five years ago. He chose Trojan because he was looking for more DM production on his cultivatable paddocks and because this variety is backed by plenty of performance data and comes with NEA2 endophyte.

Seed is broadcast onto grazed turnip paddocks once there’s enough moisture in the soil, and following a spray if necessary to control weeds.

After sowing, Robin keeps a close eye on the emerging Trojan and clover and typically sprays again, mainly to eradicate docks.

The aim is to get this herbicide on before the first grazing, which in turn (where possible) is done with weaner heifers before they leave the farm on May 1.

If no weaners are available, cows are used for the first grazing, but with caution. Robin says young Trojan paddocks need to be looked after to ensure strong establishment. They’re not wintered on but grazed as needed during June and July before coming into the normal grazing round in August.

Subsequent grazing management focuses on maintaining optimal grass performance.

Last autumn, Robin also started using a mix of Trojan and Rohan perennial ryegrass to create a dense, hard-wearing pasture more suited to his difficult hill paddocks.

For more advice on sowing Trojan this autumn for more home grown feed, call your local Fonterra Farm Source TSR today.

Article supplied by Agriseeds