Product Used: Moby Forage Barley
Before Victorian producer and Nullawil BWBL member Darren Barker (pictured) introduced Moby barley to his cropping program, his sheep enterprise was limited to buying store lambs to finish on stubbles. He has grown Moby barley for the past three years to help fill the winter and spring feed gap before stubbles became available for grazing. Darren initially trialled 40ha of the grazing crop, expanding it to 200ha this winter. “We’ve found Moby barley gives phenomenal feed growth, provided it rains, and it has allowed us to run a lot more sheep, including breeding ewes, which we couldn’t do before,’’ Darren said.
Today, he runs a breeding flock of 1,200 Merino ewes joined to Poll Dorset rams for an April lambing, providing a reliable income from wool and prime lambs each season. He then buys-in up to 1,500 store lambs, depending on the season and price opportunities. PDS manager Garry Armstrong, Department of Environment and Primary Industries at Echuca in Victoria, said the PDS demonstrated that sheep were great for cash flow and a good risk management tool for grain producers. In 2010, a Moby barley grazing crop in the trial returned a gross income of $1,767/ha when continually grazed by ewes and lambs, compared to a crop of Hindmarsh barley, which recorded a gross income of $671/ha when grazed once. Garry said the practical on-farm work undertaken by the Nullawil group had shown it was possible to use grazing crops to generate a sustainable sheep income from a small part of a cropping property. The introduction of grazing crops also gives producers the ability to finish lambs with more consistency in meeting market specifications.
He said research indicated a purpose-grown grazing crop was best in their region, as there was only a small window of about eight weeks to graze cereal crops before grain yields were adversely affected. Darren was originally keen to try grazing crops to spread risk, especially when farming with marginal rainfall. This year he sowed Moby barley in late April, at a cost of $20/ha for seed with 40kg monoammonium phosphate (MAP) fertiliser/ha. The ewes lambed in April in a confinement area, where they were supplementary-fed due to the dry autumn. When it didn’t rain until late May, Darren said the resulting crop wasn’t ready for grazing until July but it carried the sucker lambs right through to sale in September.
Darren used a simple three strand electric fence system to rotationally graze the Moby barley in paddocks sized 12–22ha. Stocking rates and grazing pressure varied depending on the season, he said, although they usually ran up to 300 ewes and lambs in the larger-sized paddocks, moving the stock every few days as required. He said they aimed to finish their home-bred lambs on the Moby barley as suckers for the supermarket trade at 20–22kg carcase weight.
Darren Barker, Nullawil, VIC