Grazing is key to

28 Mar, 2002 07:00 PM
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GRAZE perennial pastures quick and hard, according to Dandaragan farmers Graham and Dave Johnson.

Hosting a field walk during the Evergreen farming autumn update in Badgingarra last week, the Johnsons said it was grazing management which determined the success of perennial pastures.

Based on nearly five years experience, the Johnsons told attendees that if sorghum was grazed too heavily for too long it would be unable to sustain growth, but if not grazed enough, foliage would become less palatable and lack nutrition.

Graham Johnson said their best results were achieved when sorghum was stocked heavily with steers (280DSE) for less than two weeks.

"It is important to get high stocking rates for a shorter period," he said.

After grazes, Mr Johnson said not to put stock back in until the plants had recovered, which was not necessarily the recommended seven weeks.

It was stressed, however, that the plants should not be allowed to go to seed.

Following this regime, he and Dave determined the establishment cost of $85/ha would be recovered after the first graze, although they hadn't weighed the steers yet.

The bonus will be the provision of a second and third graze and next year's production.

"Costs are not high and the potential benefits cover the costs," Mr Johnson said.

It has not all been a success, though. During the past five years, the Johnsons have encountered problems.

Sheep were found to be unsuitable as they weren't able to graze down sorghum as well as cattle and fencing was a problem for sheep.

In one plot, Lab Lab was intercropped with the sorghum, which was assumed to cause scours as no other source could be pinpointed.

"However, we don't understand enough about it," Mr Johnson said.

Chicory was also trialled in conjunction with sorghum, but success had been minimal.

During the field walk, it was raised that with the Johnson's soil type being traditionally potassium deficient, an application of muriate of potash could have been beneficial.

However, the Johnsons said that went against the biological system they were trying to achieve.

The only potassium supplement they would consider applying was too expensive and defeated the purpose of establishing perennials in the grazing system.

As a part of the biological system, the Johnsons are trying to introduce diversity through mixes with lucerne and tagasaste.

"More diversity we can give them (stock), the better they will perform," Mr Johnson said.

The Johnsons' main aims are to provide quality summer/autumn feed for steers, grow sorghum as a substitute for hay, provide additional feed on spray-topped paddocks (which included weed control) and provide opportunistic feed in the event of significant summer rain.

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