Expanding the use of cheaper grazed grass pastures and ultimately using less expensive feed options during summer and autumn — such as hay and silage — are seen by Strathallan dairy farmer Mick Myers as a great opportunity.
In an effort to reduce overall production costs, Mr Myers has added the flexibility of a new and highly vigorous longer season hybrid rye-grass to his program.
And the prospect of grazing earlier and finishing grazing later with Shogun rye-grass is certainly adding flexibility to his management decisions.
Mr Myers said he liked to have options to adapt his management to suit the prevailing circumstances and weather conditions.
He has 155ha that is used as the pasture base for 440 milking cows. Another 40ha is used for grazing young stock and 140ha is available to grow silage. It is all irrigable, except for 30ha.
About 60 per cent of his herd currently calves in autumn and the aim is to push that up to 70 per cent in the future with a continued focus on grazing.
‘‘One aim is to milk a bit over 7000litres per cow,’’ he said.
‘‘We join most of the cows at the end of May so they start calving in March, and the rest are joined in November and calve in August.
‘‘Shogun is a new long season rye-grass that we have been planting on some paddocks and it complements the Aston rye-grass we have on other paddocks mixed in with clover.
‘‘The Shogun has done very well here over the winter and spring period. It has the added advantage over other varieties that if we have a favourable season, it can be watered and grown all the way through summer.
‘‘If it’s not to our advantage to do that, the paddocks can be allowed to just dry off.
‘‘It depends a lot on water prices and how hot it is.
‘‘We’ve just found here in northern Victoria that if you start to irrigate over summer and the conditions aren’t right, you can grow a lot of rubbish pasture weeds when you get those hot, humid days.
‘‘I find in those conditions it’s better to dry those paddocks off, conserve the water, and we know the Shogun will come back strong. We just top it up with about 12 to 14kg/ha of seed.
‘‘It does cost a little bit more for seed, but it grows for a long time and it gives us the opportunity that if we get a favourable season we can take it right through the summer as a cheaper feed option.
‘‘I select grass varieties depending on what I want to achieve and how I think I can get to my goals, so I need to have the grasses that are going to perform for me. Paying for higher quality varieties may cost more, but if it produces a lot more you’re way in front,’’ Mr Myers said.
‘‘You pay more, but you get more back.’’