Resilient ryegrass proves itself in tough conditions

Resilient ryegrass proves itself in tough conditions

27 January 2020

In a part of New Zealand where dairy pastures can face heavy pressure from climatic conditions and insect pests, a perennial ryegrass bred for all-round reliability is holding its own.

For Tony and Julie Drnasin, who milk 1,900 cows across two platforms plus a support block at Te Pahu, near Mt Pirongia, pasture longevity is a top priority, especially with periods of dry weather becoming more frequent and prolonged.

Tony says persistence is the biggest challenge with regrassing in the Waikato. “We don’t want a pasture that grows great then falls over after three years. We want pasture that persists and grows well for four or five years.”

He’s farmed the home property for the best part of 20 years and says periods of dry weather that traditionally were not too challenging now stretch out longer through summer and autumn.

For years he and Julie used Alto perennial ryegrass in their annual pasture renewal programme, because it grew well and persisted strongly in their conditions, which include a stocking rate of 3.6 cows per hectare (ha) on the home farm.

Through their local TSR, Nick Anderson, from Farm Source Hamilton, they’ve now moved on to Alto’s replacement, Governor AR37.

This is a fine, densely tillered, diploid cultivar with high dry matter (DM) yield on the shoulders of the season, and a record of excellent survival under drought and high insect pressure.

Tony likens the change to upgrading to a newer model Toyota ute, replacing one proven workhorse with its improved successor.

The Drnasins run a System 3-4 operation, depending on the milk payout, and average about 750 to 760,000 kilograms (kg) milk solids (MS) a year.

They grow maize silage on their support land and supplement with imported palm kernel (PK) if needed.

Governor AR37 ryegrass was sown following summer turnips in March 2018, and came through the first summer and autumn well, despite a long, dry period in the Waikato which saw many herds in the area dried off early.

“We’re really happy with it at this stage. The cows like it and it’s looking good,” says Tony

Getting new pasture off to a strong healthy start comes down to following simple rules, Tony says. “Don’t over graze it, don’t pug it, give it a bit of nitrogen as required.”

Blair Cotching is farm systems manager for Barenbrug Agriseeds, which bred Governor ryegrass.

With its fine leaves, dense tillers, low aftermath heading and good rust resistance, it’s ideal in situations where robust, reliable, easy-to-manage pasture is required, he says.

For a dense, dependable, palatable pasture, Blair recommends sowing Governor at 18-20 kg/ha with Kotuku large-leaved and Weka medium-leaved white clovers at 2 kg/ha each, plus Captain CSP plantain at 2 kg/ha (to reduce nitrogen leaching) and Morrow red clover at 5 kg/ha (for high feed quality in late spring and early summer, and extra N fixation).

To find out more, ask your Farm Source TSR, or visit your local Farm Source store.

Article supplied by Barenbrug Agriseeds