Farmers looking to boost their feed stocks this autumn could consider repeating the home-grown pasture success Southern Tablelands sheep and cattle producer Alex Willson achieved with Ascend tetraploid annual ryegrass.
Alex selected the PGG Wrightson annual ryegrass seed Ascend, and it proved to be a top performer for home-grown winter and spring pasture.
For Southern Tablelands sheep and cattle producer Alex Willson, who breeds Poll Merinos, the advantages of using Ascend are undeniable.
The dryland farmer describes the unique challenges of his unique environment: “We have granite-based sandy loams that are very acidic, low in phosphorous and high in aluminium – so we have to apply lime to improve soil pH, and we also need to fertilise to improve soil fertility.”
In addition, while Alex’s farm generally experiences reasonably reliable winter rainfall, dry autumns and windy springs (that quickly dry out pastures) can create further challenges – and this is when good paddock preparation and stand maturation become vital.
Yet Alex’s biggest challenge is the renovation of exhausted pastures, that often have a high proportion of poor quality annuals, natives and weeds.
“Most of our paddocks consist of native pastures with a poor fertiliser history. Because of that, we struggle to fill feed gaps in winter and summer – and there’s often a need to introduce supplementary grain and hay through winter for pregnant ewes, and during the summer months for weaners.”
Following advice from their agronomist, Alex decided to trial 10ha (25 acres) of Ascend tetraploid annual ryegrass: “Our agronomist has a considerable amount of experience using annual ryegrass in a paddock rotation to control weed problems in exhausted pastures. He recommended Ascend, based on its high feed quality and production potential,” Alex explains.
“We also planted Cooba Oats at the same time, to see how it would compare to the Ascend in terms of grazing yield and digestibility. Our trialed paddocks were fallow sprayed, limed and ameliorated, then sprayed again and harrowed pre-sowing.
We then planted the Ascend at 25 kilo/ha, with a 20mm (8 inches) sowing depth using a disc drill with press wheels – while the oats were sown at 100 kilo/ha,” Alex reports.
“It was sown into really good moisture, and we had a good strike and plenty of germination. It got out of the ground quickly and had a lot of early growth – and while our winter was unseasonably dry, the Ascend did a great job at producing a bulk of high-quality feed. It also worked really well at suppressing saffron and scotch thistle and annual broadleaves that were in the paddock pre-fallow.”
Alex was more than surprised by the overall results: “During winter, we had 25 dry sheep equivalents (DSE) per hectare for eight weeks, and we grazed an average of 45 DSE per hectare from late August to the start of November 2017. We’ve also done a couple of cut and feed tests – and we were both surprised and pleased with the results.”
The results showed a resounding win for Ascend, which achieved pre-graze yields of 2.65 tonnes/ha of dry matter, versus 1.9 per hectares of dry matter for Cooba Oats. Alex then conducted a second cut test based on similar grazing pressures, and Ascend achieved 3.6 tonnes/ha, compared to their Cooba Oat paddock, that achieved 1.7 tonnes.
Significantly, Ascend also achieved an average of 80% digestibility in the first and second grazing, compared to the Oats, which averaged about 75%.
Based on those results, Alex says that plans are now in place to plant approximately 50ha (125 acres) of Ascend tetraploid annual ryegrass: “Ascend has been fantastic. It’s proven very handy for weight gain, and it’s been highly productive – as shown by higher stocking rates for longer periods on minimal rain. It clearly exhibits superior early growth, as well as unequaled productivity during winter and spring.”
To find out more about how Ascend can benefit your pasture system, visit www.pggwrightsonseeds.com.au, or speak to one of PGG Wrightson Seeds’ pasture agronomists by calling 1800 619 910.