A specialist pasture blend designed for winter feed has proved to be an excellent feed source for dairy cows on the property of Graeme Clay, at Camperdown, in the western districts of Victoria. Mr Clay said they were looking at options to feed the cows through the winter months and planted 40 hectares of SowSmart Winter Gap Fill blend across 12 paddocks last season. SowSmart Winter Gap Fill blend consists of Moby forage barley, Jivet tetraploid annual Italian ryegrass as well as Cavalier spineless burr medic and Bouncer hybrid forage brassica. The blend has been designed so the Moby forage barley establishes quickly and provides feed during periods that traditionally have feed gaps. “We bought it to do that job, and it certainly did that job,” Mr Clay said. The blend was sown in March and April and germinated well on rainfall before being fed off to the cattle during winter. A herd of 320 cows strip-grazed the 40 hectares over 21 days which provided excellent feed and the option of other areas of the property to be spelled and receive applications of urea. Mr Clay said the Sow Smart blend provided three grazings early in the season, was cut for silage, grazed a further three times, cut for silage again and then grazed a final time in December. One seven hectare paddock produced 55 rolls of silage the first cut and 75 rolls of silage the second cut. Other silage was put straight into a bunker.
At some stages of the season, the area was being cut every 14 days with good rainfall and sunshine helping the regrowth. Hot wires were used across individual paddocks with the cows able to graze the area both in the morning and at night. Mr Clay said the Moby barley was the dominant species early in the season but was replaced by the ryegrass leading into spring. “You could see the difference early when we cut the silage although the Jivet ryegrass really kicked off in the spring,” he said. “The forage barley certainly gave it the tonnage early.” The medic and clover components of the mix struggled with insects early and may not have reached their potential in the mix. A feed test taken from the silage recorded the crude protein at 26 percent and energy at 11.5 ME in a very good result. Silage will be fed out to the dairy cows over summer and a similar blend will be utilised leading into autumn and winter of next season.
Graeme Clay, of Camperdown, VIC, inspecting SowSmart Winter Gap Fill blend last season.