Feeding for profit

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Feeding for profit

               Tuesday 20th. May, 2008
               DemoDAIRY, Terang
3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage


3030 Farmlets Plan and Forage Plan 2007/08                                         2

Overview of 3030                                                                   3
      General approach                                                             3
      3030 Farmlets                                                                5
      Key points to note                                                           6
      Results in a nutshell                                                        6
      Why has CF not out-performed RM to the extent originally expected?           7
      Physical details of the Project 3030 farmlet systems at Demodairy            9

Farmlet Feeding Practices                                                          10
      Key findings                                                                 10
      Summary of first three lactations                                            12

3030 Farmlet Economics                                                             13
      Conclusions                                                                  13
      Notes to Tables of Farm Business Performance                                 14
      Additional Definitions of Data                                               15
      Summary of Farmlet Economic Performance                                      16
      Red Sky Sensitivity Analysis of 3030 Farmlet Scenarios                       17

Forage Options                                                                     18
      Winter Forages Options                                                       18
      Effect of stage of growth on DM yield and nutritive value of trit. & wheat   19
      When to graze cereals                                                        20
              Timing of grazing for cereal forage crops                            21
      Potential of annual ryegrass for grazing                                     23
      Cereal and Pea Combinations                                                  26
      Double Cropping with winter and summer forage crops                          29

Grazing Cereals                                                                    32
      Which cereals can be grazed?                                                 32
      When can grazing begin?                                                      32
      To what height should stock graze down to?                                   36
      Mow, wilt and graze?                                                         37
      How many grazings?                                                           37
      When should grazing stop?                                                    38
      Some other considerations when grazing cereals                               39

3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

                                 Overview of 3030
                                                                        David Chapman
                                                                    Melbourne University

Purpose and aims

Project 3030 is a research and development project with the aim of “increasing return on
assets in dryland dairying regions by 30%, through a 30% increase in the consumption
of home-grown forage.” It is based on the well-established fact that farms with higher
total dry matter consumption per hectare tend to be more profitable, because pasture is a
cheaper feed source, per unit of dry matter or energy, compared to purchased feed. It is
always a little dangerous to generalise about relationships between management factors
and profit in dairy businesses, but few people would argue with this one.

In setting goals of 30% higher home grown forage consumption and profit, 3030 is
accepting a stiff challenge, for these are large increases. If the targets are achievable,
then the industry has a foundation to build upon further for growth into the future. Even
if not fully achieved, we will certainly have learned a lot more about the relationships
between forage and profit, and the potential profit improvements that can be gained
through the forage base.

In addition to the profit goals, as 3030 has progressed it has become very clear that issues
of risk must also be addressed in the project. This was, or course, most apparent as a
consequence of the 2006/07 drought which seriously impacted feed supply, feed prices
and profit of dairy businesses throughout southern Australia. In 3030, we now talk about
profitable and resilient farming systems, and are using data collected in our research to
develop adaptive management practices for the forage base that help reduce the risks
associated with changing practices.

General approach

The 3030 aim recognizes that many top producers are at, or very close to, the limit of dry
matter consumption per hectare that can be achieved from the traditional pasture base,
perennial ryegrass. In 3030, we are testing the potential of ryegrass alone, but are also
considering a scenario of ‘beyond ryegrass’: that is, are there opportunities for adapting
the forage base to take us to higher levels of home grown forage consumption and profit
than we can expect from ryegrass alone? This does not imply that ryegrass needs to be
replaced: but rather, that we should consider plants which could complement ryegrass, for
example by extending the growing season, or by producing a bulk of feed from a
proportion of the farmed area when soil moisture is reliable to plant growth which could
be conserved and fed back at other times of the year.

Hence, 3030 is investigating the yield potential, management requirements, nutritive and
feeding value, systems integration, and profit of different forages such as ryegrass
pasture, tall fescue pasture, winter crops such as cereals, summer crops such as brassicas,
and forage herbs, alone and in combination. We are doing this in ‘small-plot’
3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

experiments, feeding experiments and a farmlet experiment located at DemoDairy in
southwest Victoria.

We are also engaging with farmers and service businesses (contractors, agronomists, seed
and chemical companies etc.) in southwest Victoria, Gippsland, northeast Victoria and
the Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia to determine the whole-farm implications of
changing the forage base, and to support the development of practice change extension
for the rainfed industries across southern Australia.

3030 themes

There are three theme areas which encapsulate most of the activities within 3030:

1. “Grow and Harvest: More home-grown forage”, where most of the small plot
experimentation is carried out, to determine yields, management requirements etc. This
work is mostly located at DemoDairy, though some has been carried out on 3030 Partner

2. “Consuming Home-Grown Forage: Building profitable systems”, where the critical
issue of how to incorporate more forage, and a more diverse range of forage sources, into
the diet of the high producing dairy cow is being investigated. The main activity here is
the 3030 farmlets at DemoDairy, comparing production and profit of a well-managed
perennial ryegrass system with a system based on complementary forages.

3. “Profitable Farming: Working with industry”, where 3030 is working with Partner
Farms and development groups in southwest Victoria, Gippsland, and northeast Victoria
to test how readily research concepts and information can be incorporated within the
whole farm system. This theme also includes work on-farm with service businesses,
mainly focused on implementing and demonstrating best practice for winter cereal

3030 partners

Project 3030 began in early 2005. It is a partnership between researchers from the
University of Melbourne and DPI Victoria, DPI extension staff and private consultants,
farmers, and the associated farm service sector. Organisations such as DemoDairy play a
very important facilitating role by allowing the project to operate on their property and
make use of land, animals and other resources. The support of DemoDairy for 3030 is
gratefully acknowledged.

Importantly, the project also receives funding from dairy farmer R&D levies through
Dairy Australia, WestVic Dairy, GippsDairy, Murray Dairy, and Dairy SA, which is
gratefully acknowledged. The Gardiner Foundation has made an important contribution
to support social research into on-farm adoption and decision-making processes. Also,
the Department of Primary Industries Victoria and the University of Melbourne
contribute funding to the project.
3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

The 3030 farmlets

The 3030 farmlet experiment began at DemoDairy in June 2005. The questions that are
being addressed in the farmlets are:

1. Can a system based on complementary forages substantially out-perform a well-
managed ryegrass-based system?

2. If not, why not? And can we adapt the complementary forages approach to make it

Hence the experiment comprises 2 farmlets:

“Ryegrass Max”, or “RM”, which is 100% perennial ryegrass, stocked at 2.25 cows/ha,
and aiming (originally) for around 8.5 t DM/ha consumed home grown forage, 450 kg
milk solids per cow, 1000 kg milk solids per hectare, and $1,170/ha operating profit
(9.6% return on assets).

“Complementary Forages”, or “CF”, which is 60% ryegrass, 25% tall fescue-based,
15% double crop (winter cereal followed by summer brassica), stocked at 2.9 cows/ha,
and aiming (originally) for 12.5 t DM/ha of consumed home grown forage, 500 kg milk
solids per cow, 1450 kg milk solids per hectare and $2,210/ha operating profit (15.4%
return on assets).

In both farmlets, the aim was that 70-75% of the total intake of the cows would come
from home grown forage (pastures and crops, including any silage made from pasture or
crop). This ratio was chosen because it led to the lowest average feed total cost, after
allowing for 1.2 – 1.5 t grain concentrate per cow to ensure animals were not energy-
limited for body condition maintenance and reproduction. In CF, the combination of
forage chosen was based on systems modeling work in the lead-up to 3030 which
suggested that:
      - 12 t DM/ha consumed from winter cereal (as whole-crop silage) plus around 9 t
         DM./ha from a summer brassica crop provided sufficient conserved feed, plus
         high quality summer feed, to meet milk production targets;
      - around 25% of area in summer-active pastures based on tall fescue would extend
         the pasture growing season by around 6 weeks compared to perennial ryegrass
         and provide valuable green feed during the period between the spring pasture
         peak and the time when grazing of summer crops starts (around late January).

The physical details of the farmlets are shown in Table 1 below, and the paddock-by-
paddock forage plan for the 2 farmlets is shown in the farmlet map (Page 2).

3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

Key points to note include:

       At peak, there are 36 autumn (June-July) calving Holstein-Friesian cows milked
       on both farmlets
       The stocking rate difference is achieved by altering the effective area available in
       each farmlet – 16ha on RM versus 12.5 ha on CF
       RM has been managed consistently with perennial ryegrass only. Virtually the
       entire farmlet area was sown down to new ryegrass pastures within the first 2
       In CF, the area of double cropping has been consistently maintained at 15% of
       effective area, while areas of perennial ryegrass, annual or Italian ryegrass, and
       tall fescue-based pasture have fluctuated a bit, mainly reflecting pasture
       renovation activities. The three old tall fescue paddocks (sown in 2000) that were
       annexed into the farmlets at the start of the trial are being renovated during
       2007/08 and 2008/09 by oversowing them with annual or Italian ryegrasses and
       then re-sowing them after 1 or 2 years.
       As for RM, all ryegrass pastures on the CF farmlet have been re-sown within the
       first 2 lactations with new cultivars.
       The amount of nitrogen used on pastures also fluctuates between years, according
       to growing season conditions and feed supply/demand balance. There is no fixed
       recipe or target for total N use – only a profitability target!
       Both farmlets have some paddocks that are drained using sub-surface moles over
       a “collector pipe” drains (installed in autumn 2006). The drained area has been
       constant at 25% of RM, while in CF the drop from 40% in 2007/08 to 24% in
       2008/09 reflects the re-location of the double-cropping paddock onto new ground
       which has not been drained, whereas the original double cropping paddock was

Results in a nutshell (to May 2008)

       Pasture consumption rates have matched or exceeded expectations, but crop yields
       have generally fallen short of expectations. However, the winter cereal
       component of the double crop rotation in CF has yielded impressively in 2 out of
       3 seasons (up to 14 – 16 t DM/ha), showing that the potential is there, and that
       some of the assumptions made about crop yields at the beginning of the trial
       appear reasonable.
       Milk production on both farmlets has been well above expectations – due, among
       other factors, to careful feeding management and a focus on maintenance of
       pasture quality (including pasture silage) through tight grazing management and
       timely forage conservation decisions.
       The performance of RM has been particularly noteworthy. In the drought year
       2006/07, return on assets was estimated at 7.5%, and in the following (more
       ‘typical’) year RoA was estimated at 20.1%. This is a relatively simple system,
       relying on grazed pasture, pasture silage, grain, and some purchased hay for
       feeding. There is nothing out of the ordinary about the cows, and the rates of N

3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

       fertilizer and other inputs have not been especially high. The key has been good
       planning and management of pastures, feeding, reproduction, and costs.
       Complementary forages can be introduced into the diet of the cow without major
       milk production penalties. This includes tall fescue and cereal silage!
       600+ kg milk solids per cow is possible on a diet that is 70-75% forage, and 25-
       30% grain concentrate
       The drought year of 2006/07 severely curtailed pasture growth (see Figure 1) but,
       despite this, milk production still exceeded 2005/06 and both systems made
       greater profit than top 10% farms in the region (7.5%, 5.5% and 6.9% respectively
       for RM, CF and top 10% of industry in 2006/07.
       Cumulative operating profit over the three lactations has been $7,213 and $7,983
       in RM and CF respectively (11% difference). The margin between the 2 systems
       is less when expressed in return on assets, because a higher asset value per hectare
       is assumed for CF, reflecting improvements such as drainage and feed pads. We
       anticipate that a higher margin than this would be required to justify a major
       change in systems on farms across Victoria.

   Why has CF not out-performed RM to the extent originally expected?

   • RM has performed so much better than expected (see bullet point #2, above)
   • The drought affected CF more severely, because of the high stocking rate which
   required more feed to be bought-in (at high cost per tonne and in total)
   • The double-cropping paddock has not performed to its full potential, mainly
   because summer crops have failed completely in 2 out of the 3 years due to dry
   • Because winter crops have not always been harvested at the ideal time to
   maximize conserved DM yield
   • and wastage rates of conserved feeds in CF have been too high

Of these, the latter 2 can be addressed through better management, so there is scope for
improvement. Whereas, we expect that RM is already performing at the highest possible
level, apart perhaps from gains that could come from increasing stocking rate and using
more nitrogen.


3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

Figure 1: Mean monthly pasture growth rates for the Ryegrass Max (RM) and
Complementary Forages (CF) farmlets at DemoDairy in 2005/06 and 2006/07, compared to
long-term average growth rates (predicted using ‘DairyMod’).


                           Pasture growth rates: 2005/06 lactation
                    80                                               Long-term
                    70                                               T10

    kg DM

                         Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May


                           Pasture growth rates: 2006/07 lactation
                    80                                               Long-term
                    70                                                RM
     kg DM/ha/day

                         Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May

   3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

   Table 1: Physical details of the Project 3030 farmlet systems at DemoDairy

                                                                Ryegrass Max                     Complementary Forages
                                                    2005/06   2006/07 2007/08   2008/09   2005/06 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09
Farmlet physical details
      Effective milking area (EMA, ha)               16.0      16.0     16.0     16.0      12.5     12.5    12.5    12.5
 % effective milking area in:
      Perennial ryegrass pasture                      100       100      100      100       58      40       58      47
      Area of pasture oversown with                    0         0        0        0        0       18       11      16
                       ARG/IRG* (ha)
      Area of summer shoulder pasture (ha)            0         0         0       0         17       27      16      22
      Area of double crop (ha)                        0         0         0       0         15       15      15      15
      Area of summer crop (ha)                         0         0        0       0         10       0        0      0
      Milking cow numbers                             36        36       36       36        36       36      36      36
      Stocking rate (cows/EMA)                       2.25      2.25     2.25     2.25      2.90     2.90    2.90    2.90
      Total N use on pasture (kg N/ha)               130       160      145                116      177     141
      % effective area drained                        0         25       25       25        0        40      40      24

   *ARG = annual ryegrass, IRG = Italian ryegrass


3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

                             Farmlet Feeding Practices
                                                                                    Julian Hill
                                                                          Melbourne University


    •    It is possible to achieve high per cow performance from diets containing ~75% forage
         and 25% concentrates
    •    Efficient use of feed is a potential driver of profit; feed conversion efficiency is an
         indicator worth understanding;
    •    It is possible to achieve high farm profit using a strategy that includes both high per cow
         production and high consumption of home-grown forage
    •    Feed conversion efficiency and per cow performance alone does not guarantee profit;
         understand all the drivers of profit
    •    A feed plan is essential
    •    Climate variation changes growth patterns; have a feed plan that can adapt to this
    •    Improvement comes with experience. Plan for stepwise improvement rather than expect
         to master changes to your forage system in the first year.

Key findings
High per cow production achieved on both forage systems

Overall production per cow increased over the three years of the project from 520 kg MS/cow to
600 kg MS/cow in the RMAX (100% perennial ryegrass pasture base) system (15.3%), and from
530 kg MS/cow to 618 kg MS/cow (16.6%) in the CF (complementary forage) system.

Feed conversion efficiency can be a useful indicator

Feed conversion efficiencies (FCE: g MS/kg DM consumed) were moderate in the first year of
the experiment (ranging from 74.6 to 78.5), increasing to high performance of 112.4 (2 year
average) in RMAX and 109.5 (2 year average) in CF respectively. The relatively low FCE during
the first lactation represents feed consumption being partitioned into body condition (cow
condition at the start of the experiment was low – less than 4.0 in the majority of cases). Feed
conversion efficiency increase means a high proportion of the feed energy consumed goes to milk
and a lower proportion used for maintenance. Higher profit is possible if feed conversion can be
increased whilst controlling associated costs. The opposite can also be true.

A feed plan is essential

The feeding strategies employed for forage supplements, purchased-in feeds or home-grown
conserved feeds were:

(1) graze grass first,

(2) try to minimise purchased-in feeds by prioritizing consumption of home grown forages,

(3) offer feeds of highest energy density/quality of protein to cows with the highest demands for
nutrients whilst maintaining low rates of substitution, and
                                                  - 10 -
3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

(4) forward plan and synchronise energy and protein feeding strategies especially during the
summer milk production period.

Climate influences the forage plan

In RMAX, home-grown feed consumption increased from 49 to 73% of total feed intake over the
period 2005 to 2008. Concentrate intake remained similar over the three years ranging from 25 to
27%. Our reliance on purchased-in forages and supplements decreased substantially over the
three lactations. The contribution of pasture + pasture silage in the forage component of the
ration was approximately 73% in ‘normal’ seasons (2005-06 & 2007-08) but markedly reduced in
the ‘drought’ year (2006-07) to 57%.

In CF, home-grown feed consumption ranged from 49 to 65% of total feed intake over the period
2005 to 2008. A decline from 53 to 49% was observed in 2006-07 (‘drought’ year) compared the
first year of the study. Concentrate intake remained similar over the three years ranging from
approximately 26 to 30%. Our reliance on purchased-in forages and supplements remained
relatively constant over the first two lactations and decreased substantially in the last lactation.
The contribution of pasture + pasture silage in the forage component of the ration was
approximately 73% in the first lactation (2005-06) declining to 49% in the drought year of
(2006-07), and rising to 65% in the final lactation.

Silage an important part of the feed plan

Spring growth makes up ~60% of total annual pasture production. In both farmlets, we have
attempted to grow and harvest as much as practical in spring to limit our reliance on purchased
feed. The silage was always harvested whilst “young” to ensure high quality (~11 ME).
An aggressive pasture silage conservation strategy in RMAX maintained the % pasture silage
rates between the 12 to 20% range (i.e. 80 to 88% of pasture harvested is grazed grass).
Adopting the approach used in RMAX, pasture silage rates in CF changed from below 7% to
more than 13% from the first to the final lactation. The lower number reflecting the higher
stocking rate and area cropped in CF.

The focus on silage led to greater pasture silage reserves that could be fed during summer and
early autumn to support production during periods of high milk price. This philosophy can only
be achieved by maintaining rotations and entry into pasture at a pre-designated stage of growth
(leaf stage 2.5 to 3). Strategic use of nitrogen fertilizer was also adopted to generate surpluses for
filling projected feed gaps.

Understand all the drivers of profit

Even though ‘per cow’ production and FCE was excellent, these are not the only factors that drive
profitability. We have demonstrated in the first three lactations that accurate decision making,
timeliness in operations, accurate feeding systems, excellent cost control and good environmental
policies drive profitability not just good feed management.

                                                   - 11 -
  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

Table 1        Summary of the first three lactations (2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08)

                                                         Ryegrass Max                      Complementary Forage
                                                  2005/06 2006/07 2007/08             2005/06    2006/07     2007/08
Projected harvest rates – home grown feed
     Total pasture grazed (t DM/ha)                6.08      5.31       7.13           7.77        6.45       7.39
     Total pasture silage (t DM/ha)                1.21      1.17       1.18           0.57        0.61       1.15
     Total pasture consumed (t DM/ha)              7.29      6.48       8.31           8.34        7.06       8.54
     Total summer crop consumed (t DM/ha)            0         0         0             1.12        0.18       0.84
     Total cereal silage consumed (t DM/ha)        1.29        0         0             1.40        0.91       0.92

     Total DM consumption (t/ha all farm area)     8.58      6.48       8.31           10.82       8.15       10.3

Feed consumed (kg DM/cow)
     Pasture                                       2701      2360       3170        2698           2238       2567
     Pasture silage                                537       662         524        197             211       398
     Summer crop                                                                    390              63       291
     Cereal silage (P = Purchased)                574 (P)                        1142 (657P)        315       321
     Concentrate                                   1749      1323       1268        1858           1700       1499
     Hay – lucerne (high quality)                  1045       97                    687             335        82
     Hay – pasture (low quality)                   303       326        110         135             479       103
     Canola Hay (low quality)                                538                                    147
     Palm Kernel Expeller                                     26                                    252        219

     Total Feed consumed(kg DM/cow)                6626      5329       5072           7107        5741       5480

     Pasture and pasture silage (% consumed)       73.3      56.7       72.8           73.8        49.2       54.1
     Home-grown forage as % total consumed         48.9      56.7       72.8           53.0        49.2       65.3
     Concentrate as % total consumed               26.7      24.8       27.2           26.1        29.6       27.4

Projected milk production
     Milk yield (l/cow)                            6868      7001       7143           6964        7548       7600
     Milk solids (kg/cow)                          520       568         600           530          609       618
     Milk solids (kg/ha)                           1170      1278       1267           1526        1753       1780

                                         - 12 -
  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

                                3030 Farmlet Economics
                                                                                 David Beca
                                                                Red Sky Agricultural Pty Ltd

There are now 3 years of economic analysis for the 3030 Farmlets at DemoDairy. These have
been compared to the Red Sky South-West Victoria benchmarks for 2005/06 and 2006/07 as well
as an estimated Red Sky South-West Victoria benchmark for 2007/08 (though financial year is
not yet complete so this must be interpreted with caution).
There are a number of conclusions that could be drawn from these comparisons:
1. Both the Ryegrass Max (‘RM’) and Complimentary Forages (‘CF’) farmlets have
   demonstrated high levels of profitability (based on Return on Assets) that are similar to or
   higher than the Top 10% South-West Victoria benchmarks.
2. Both the RM and CF farmlets have improved their performance rating compared to the
   benchmarks over the 3 years from 2005/06 to 2007/08.
3. The improvements in performance have been derived through a combination of increases to
   milk production along with increases to pasture/forage production (which resulted in a
   reduction in purchased feed).
4. Both the RM and CF farmlets appears to have significantly exceeded the level of profitability
   of the Top 10% benchmark for 2007/08, with this benchmark estimated at 15.9% return on
   assets ($3,171 profit per hectare):
        a. The RM farmlet delivered a level of profit of 20.1% return on assets ($4,323 profit
           per hectare); and
        b. The CF farmlet delivered a level of profit of 21.6% return on assets ($5,020 profit per
5. The RM farmlet appears to be meeting the target of demonstrating management strategies and
   levels of profitability that result in Top 10% performance under a full range of seasonal
6. The CF farmlet significantly exceeded the project target of producing a 15% return on assets,
   although this was aided by a very high milk price.
7. At a more moderate milk price of $4.50/kg MS (equivalent to 33 ¢/litre for 4.0% milkfat &
   3.3% protein milk) and at feed prices similar to those prevailing in 2005/06, the result would
   have been a 12.7% return on assets. Under the same scenario, the RM farmlet would have
   produced a 12.9% return on assets.
8. For the CF farmlet to meet its profit target then the combination of winter cereal and summer
   brassica crop yields need to increase significantly from the yields attained to date. In
   particular the combined crop yields of consumed forage would need to reliably exceed 20 t

                                            - 13 -
  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

9. The moderate stocking rate, high reliance on home-grown pasture, and moderate rate of
   supplement being fed with the RM farmlet has resulted in a farming system with a low level
   of risk. This is illustrated in the table of “Red Sky Sensitivity Analysis of 3030 Farmlet
10. The high stocking rate and high reliance on crops other than pasture with the CF farmlet does
    result in a farming system with a higher level of risk. This is also illustrated in the table of
    “Red Sky Sensitivity Analysis of 3030 Farmlet Scenarios”.
11. The results to date from the two farmlets does not provide a persuasive case for farmers to
    move from the RM farming system to the CF farming system, other than potentially when
    milk prices are very high and feed prices moderate. However the 3030 team are intent on
    investigating a number of changes to the CF system to determine whether certain adaptations
    might provide higher levels of profitability and lower levels of risk.
12. The CF farmlet, while not outperforming the RM farmlet unless milk prices are very high,
    has demonstrated a considerable level of financial robustness compared to the performance of
    most commercial dairy farms, and retains good levels of profitability until milk prices are
    very low.
13. The CF farmlet will assuredly carry a higher level of risk than the RM farmlet under all
    circumstances. This does result in the CF farmlet having greater swings in profitability
    depending on milk price, feed price and level of pasture growth.

Notes to Tables of Farm Business Performance
The Red Sky financial analysis is based on combining the actual physical performance of the
farmlets with the business performance of Top 10% farmers in a group of core cost areas. This
means that actual levels of milk and pasture production, feed/supplement use and cropping,
fertiliser use, and pasture renovation are included in the analysis. Actual concentrate and forage
prices for the farmlet are used, along with milk and fertiliser prices that are standard for the
These actual costs and levels of performance are then combined with a group of other costs that
cannot be determined in a farmlet situation, and which regardless were intended to assume the
same level of performance evidenced by Top 10% farmers. This results in the following
expenses being drawn from benchmark performance:
     Animal health, breeding and herd testing, dairy shed expenses, depreciation, electricity,
     freight, repairs and maintenance, standing charges, vehicle expenses, wages and salaries.
However the more intense CF farming system will result in higher core costs due to areas such as
more cows being run per hectare, and more supplement being delivered per cow. As a result an
allowance is made for a feedpad and extra vehicles/machinery along with the extra cows in the
capital costs against which a return must be gained.
In addition there is an assessment of extra core operating costs for the CF farmlet with these
considered significant in the following areas:
     Depreciation, repairs and maintenance, vehicle expenses, wages and salaries.

                                             - 14 -
  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

There is also data in the tables relating to the 2007/08 farm business performance, with this
compared to a 2007/08 Red Sky benchmark. The farmlets run a single calving farm system, with
cows in milk from early June through to March/April. As a result we have used this “lactation”
year (May 07-Apr 08) for our analysis as opposed to the standard Jul 07-Jun 08 financial year.
The 2007/08 Top 10% (‘T10’) Red Sky benchmark year has been estimated on the basis of
known higher pasture production than in previous years, and lower requirement for purchased
forage (and lower prices of forage compared to 2006/07). This has been combined with expected
benchmark milk, feed, fertiliser and fuel prices. Other costs have also been adjusted in line with
recent price movements.

Additional Definitions of Data
In the Sensitivity Analysis table there are sets of data for ‘RM 2007/08 Normal Feed $’ and ‘CF
2007/08 Normal Feed $’. These are copies of the relevant 2007/08 year with changes made to
the feed prices to represent longer term trend line prices (similar to the prices prevailing in
2005/06). In particular purchased concentrate prices were entered at $225/ton, good quality
pasture hay at $150/tDM, and good quality clover/protein hay at $200/tDM.
In both the Sensitivity Analysis table and Summary Farm Performance report there is a set of data
for ‘CF 2007/08 GOAL’. This set of data assumes a 20 t DM/ha consumption from forage crops
and is based on growing a 15 t DM/ha cereal silage crop plus a 9 tDM/ha turnips for total crop
growth of 24 t DM/ha.
It was assumed that there will be wastage of 17.5% on the cereal silage crop from harvest through
to being consumed by the cows, resulting in the equivalent of 12.4 t DM/ha being consumed. It
was assumed that there will be wastage of 15.0% on the turnip crop, resulting in the equivalent of
7.6 t DM/ha being consumed.


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 3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

SUMMARY of Farmlet Economic Performance

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 3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

     Red Sky Sensitivity Analysis of 3030 Farmlet Scenarios

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  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

                                     Forage Options
                                                                                    Joe Jacobs
                                                                             DPI, Warrnambool


    •   Nutritive value of cereal silage is moderate, and is influenced by species and crop
    •   Grazing around stem elongation provides a good compromise between grazing and total
        yield but don’t get caught grazing too late (poorer quality and utilisation)
    •   Annual ryegrass yield is influenced by sowing rate with 30-40 kg/ha appearing to be
    •   It is possible to maintain high annual ryegrass quality throughout the growing season
    •   Pea silage is of higher quality than cereal silage with lower dry matter yield but higher
        energy and protein yield per ha
    •   Including peas in cereal silage mixes does not always include quality of conserved silage
        (taller cereals tended to dominate the pea component)
    •   Double cropping winter cereal and summer brassica results in very high yields with a
        yield advantage from cultivation of the seedbed compared to minimum tillage.


Project 3030 has been researching a range of forages that have the potential to increase dry matter
(DM) production and consumption per hectare from home grown forages. In addition, the work
has also focussed on not compromising the nutritive value of what is grown. Agronomy studies
have focussed upon the production of winter forages for both grazing and forage conservation,
improving the production of summer crops and integrating winter and summer forages into year
round double cropping systems.

Winter Forage options

Studies to date have investigated the potential of using cereals as dual purpose forages for grazing
in winter and then subsequently cutting for silage in late spring. Studies have also looked at
cutting time for silage, integrating legumes with cereals and the nutritive value of the resultant
silages produced. The terminology used to describe the growth stages of cereal (Table 1) is based
on an international decimal system (Zadocks scale).

Table 1. Cereal growth stages as described by Zadocks decimal scale for cereals

Zadocks code     Plant Growth Stage       Description

GS 11            Seedling growth          First leaf unfolded
GS13                                      3 leaves unfolded
GS20             Tillering                Main shoot only
GS21                                      Main shoot and one tiller
GS25                                      Main shoot and five tillers
GS31             Stem elongation          First node detectable
GS 32                                     Second node detectable
GS 39                                     Flag leaf blade fully visible

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  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

GS45                                           Booting                  Flag leaf swollen
GS49                                                                    Awns emerging
GS51                                           Ear emergence            First spikelet of ear emerged
GS59                                                                    Ear fully emerged
GS61                                           Flowering                Start of flowering
GS69                                                                    Flowering complete (all pollen shed)
GS73                                           Milk development         Early milk
GS77                                                                    Late milk
GS83                                           Dough development        Early dough
GS85                                                                    Soft dough
GS87                                                                    Hard dough

Effect of growth stage on DM yield and nutritive value of triticale and wheat

The data from the first two years of studies showed that the nutritive value at harvesting for silage
was moderate in terms of metabolisable energy and crude protein for forage cereals. These crops
were harvested at soft dough (GS 85) which is considered the ideal time to optimise the
relationship between DM yield and nutritive value. This estimation is based on overseas data and
has not been tested in our rainfed environments.

Over these first two years, spring conditions have not been typical with early ends to the growing
period affecting grain fill, coupled with frosts at flowering which have also hindered grain set.
Last year more detailed measurements were taken of DM yield and nutritive characteristics at
different stages of growth in attempt to gain a better picture of how growth stage affects these

Figure 1 shows the changes in DM yield as growth stage progresses whilst Figure 2 overlays ME
and CP content with DM yield changes. Figure 1 highlights that both cereals grew at similar rates
until the boot stage (GS 47), thereafter, growth rates for triticale were significantly higher than for
wheat resulting in DM yields at soft dough (GS 84) of 17 and 12.8 t DM/ha for triticale and wheat



    DM yield (t DM/ha)






                                     G S 21        G S 24      G S 30   G S 32         G S 39          G S 47   G S 51   G S 60   G S 81
                                                                                 G r o w th S ta g e
                              T ri ti c a le        W he a t

Figure 1. Dry matter yield changes of triticale and wheat with increasing crop maturity.

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  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

                 18                                                                                        40

                 16                                                                                        35


   DM yield/ME




                 2                                                                                         5

                 0                                                                                         0
                         GS21     GS24     GS30       GS32      GS39        GS47      GS51   GS60   GS81
                                                             Growth stage
                      Triticale    Wheat          Trit ME       Wheat ME           Trit CP   Wheat CP

Figure 2. Impact of crop maturity on DM yield, metabolisable energy and crude protein
          content of triticale and wheat.

Both ME and CP declined as growth stage progressed, with CP declining right through to soft
dough resulting in values of around 8 % for triticale and 12% for wheat. In contrast, ME declined
until flowering to early ear development, thereafter, there were small improvements in ME as
starch begins to be deposited in the grain. As more data comes to hand these figures will be

Summary:        There is a significant trade-off between yield and quality. Yield increases greatly
with growth stage. Protein decreases with growth stage whilst ME declines until flowering then
improves slightly with grain fill.

When to graze forage cereals ?

Earlier studies have shown
• Grazing forage cereals once did not affect total DM yields, but the DM yield at the first
    grazing was low.
• Annual ryegrass performed well under minimal grazing situations, but was difficult to harvest
    as it had lodged.
• The nutritive value of the cereals at ensiling was generally low, although we believe that this
    was in part due to poor conditions during flowering and grain set.

The data from earlier work has allowed us to develop further studies to elucidate the potential of
forages grown over winter. Key questions arising from the earlier work are:-
• How late we can leave the first grazing of forage cereals to maximise feed on offer without
    adversely affecting total DM yields

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    3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

•    Given that annual ryegrass produced in excess 12 t DM/ha under minimum grazed conditions,
     (but severely lodged) what is it capable of doing under well managed grazing situations
•    What can we do to manipulate the nutritive value of forage cereals at harvest for silage.

Timing of grazing for cereal forage crops

In autumn 2007 studies were established to investigate manipulating the timing of grazing of
either Crackerjack triticale or Wedgetail wheat. Grazing treatments were silage only (NG)
(harvested at GS 85), or grazed with lactating dairy cows at either GS21 (early tillering), GS24
(mid tillering), GS 30 (start of stem elongation) or GS 32 (2 nodes detectable on main stem) and
subsequently locked up and harvested for silage. The objective of these studies was to determine
how late we can leave grazing without having a detrimental effect on total DM yields (grazing +
silage) of the crops.

For wheat, DM yields at grazing increased as growth stage progressed (Table 2). By GS 85 (soft
dough), the DM yield of NG was significantly higher than all treatments except grazing at GS 24.
Total DM yields were significantly lower for the GS 21 treatment than all other treatments. For
triticale, DM yields when grazed at GS 21 were lower than for either the GS 30 or GS32 grazing
treatments, whilst deferring grazing until GS 32 resulted in higher DM yields than all other
grazed treatments. At GS 85, NG had a significantly higher DM yield than all other treatments,
whilst total DM yields for NG were higher than all treatments except GS 24.

Table 2. Dry matter yields (t DM/ha) of wheat and triticale grazed at different stages of
growth, cut for silage and treatment totals

                            Grazing                  Silage                  Total
                      DM yield (t DM/ha)      DM yield (t DM/ha)     DM yield (t DM/ha)

Wheat      GS 21              0.48                   12.17                   12.65
           GS 24              1.28                   13.74                   15.02
           GS 30              2.67                   12.71                   15.38
           GS 32              4.32                   10.30                   14.62
           NG              Not grazed                14.69                   14.69
    LSD(P=0.05)               0.632                   1.041                   1.049
Triticale  GS 21              0.59                   14.11                   14.70
           GS 24              1.31                   14.92                   16.22
           GS 30              1.82                   12.69                   14.51
           GS 32              3.36                   10.79                   14.15
           NG              Not grazed                19.85                   19.85
    LSD(P=0.05)               0.752                   4.746                   4.570

The CP content of wheat was highest when grazed at GS 21 and lowest at the GS 32 grazing
(Table 3). The ME content at grazing was lower when grazed at GS 32 compared to all other
treatments, whilst NDF content was higher at this grazing stage. By GS 85 there were no
differences in the ME or NDF content of all treatments.

For triticale, the CP content when grazed at GS 21 was higher than for all other treatments, with
values decreasing at each respective grazing time (Table 4). The NDF content of both GS 21 and
GS 24 was lower than the other grazing treatments. By GS 85 there was no treatment effect on
either CP and ME, whilst the ungrazed (NG) treatment had a lower NDF content than all grazed

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  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

Table 3. Crude protein (CP as %DM), metabolisable energy (MJ ME/kg DM) and neutral
detergent fibre (NDF as %DM)) of WHEAT at different grazing times and when cut for

                      GS21         GS24         GS30          GS32         NG          LSD
CP                   37.0           34.2        30.6          23.2                  1.29
ME                   13.6           13.6        13.3          10.5                  0.33
NDF                  37.4           36.3        37.9          54.4                  1.92

CP                    9.3           10.6         9.7          10.4         10.9     1.05
ME                    8.9            9.0         9.0           8.9          9.1     0.28
NDF                  53.8           52.2        53.0          53.3         51.5     1.78

Table 4. Crude protein (CP as %DM), metabolisable energy (MJ ME/kg DM) and neutral
detergent fibre (NDF as %DM) of TRITICALE at different grazing times and when cut for

                      GS21         GS24         GS30          GS32         NG          LSD
CP                   35.5           32.3        30.0          23.4                  1.84
ME                   13.5           13.5        12.8          12.0                  0.43
NDF                  37.2           37.0        42.5          44.1                  2.28

CP                    8.0            7.7         8.3           8.5          8.4     0.83
ME                    8.3            8.3         8.0           8.3          8.6     0.46
NDF                  56.0           57.0        58.7          57.5         52.5     2.81

Apart from the lower total DM yields for the earliest grazing treatment (GS 21), it would appear
that for wheat grazing anytime from mid tillering (GS 24) to the commencement of stem
elongation (GS 30) does not adversely affect DM yields. In contrast, for triticale only grazing
during mid tillering (GS 24) resulted in comparable DM yields to the ungrazed (NG) treatment,
with other grazing times resulting in significant DM yield reductions for both silage and total DM

For both wheat and triticale, the residual DM present after grazing was considerably higher for
the later grazing treatments indicating poor utilisation of available feed for grazing. The demand
for grazeable feed of high nutritive value in early to mid winter is high as it normally coincides
with early lactation on many dairy farms in south west Victoria. At this time, growth rates for
perennial ryegrass are often low, thus the provision of cereal crops as a forage grazing option
provides greater flexibility into the system.

The nutritive value of both wheat and triticale at grazing was more than adequate to contribute to
the diet of dairy cows in early lactation. In fact, the CP content was such that consideration needs
to be given to managing excess N in the diet and subsequent energy cost incurred in its removal
in urine. By GS 85 the nutritive value of both cereals could only be considered as of moderate
value with ME values between 8 – 9 MJ/kg DM and CP content of 7.7 to 10.9 % DM. Such

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  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

values are likely to limit the use of silages made from these crops in the diets of dairy cows to
periods of late lactation or as dry cow feed.

The data presented from these studies indicates that winter cereal crops can be used in dairy
systems to provide forage for both grazing and ensiling. There are limitations with the use of
cereals in that only one grazing event is available and thereafter to maximise DM yields crops
need to be locked up for silage. Nutritive value of feed at grazing is high, whilst for ensiling the
feed value is moderate at best. Given this limitation, consideration needs to be given as to the
area sown to cereals, ways to manipulate nutritive value for ensiling and the impacts on feed
supply across the farm.

Summary:        Graze up to stem elongation (GS30) for high grazing yields. To maximise silage
yield do not graze at all. Avoid grazing at GS21 as both grazing yield and total yield will be low.
Maximum yield of Crackerjack triticale is obtained from nil grazing whilst Wedgetail wheat is
more flexible but has lower yield potential. There is a rapid drop in quality from stem
elongation, so grazing should be completed before GS30. The wheat silage was of better quality
than triticale

Potential of annual ryegrass for grazing

In earlier studies, annual ryegrass performed well under limited grazing scenarios but became
severely lodged by the time it was taken off for silage. It is likely that the most benefit from
annual ryegrass will be through optimising grazing regimes. Based on this a study was
established to investigate the effect of sowing rate and N fertiliser regimes on different annual
ryegrasses. The study used three annual ryegrasses – Progrow (a diploid), Winterstar (a
tetraploid) and Abundant (a high sugar tetraploid). Each was sown at 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 kg/ha
in mid April. Nitrogen regimes were imposed after the first grazing. These were

    •   No nitrogen
    •   15, 30 or 45 kg N/ha at every grazing
    •   30, 60 or 90 kg N/ha at every other grazing

All treatments were grazed at the 2.5 to 3 leaf stage with six grazings occurring between sowing
and early November. Figure 3 highlights DM yield responses to increased sowing rates as an
average across all three cultivars sown. The figure shows responses to sowing rate at all grazing
events with optimal rates for the first four grazings (June – Sept) being between the 30 and 40
kg/ha sowing rates. For the last two grazings, the response was linear with DM yield increasing
with sowing rate.

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                     3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

                     2 .5

                     2 .0
DM yield (t DM/ha)

                     1 .5

                     1 .0

                     0 .5

                     0 .0
                                             10                    20                        30                  40                50
                                                                                So w in g r a te (k g /h a )
                                                    15-Jun        18-Jul        17-A ug            20-S ep     15-O c t    7-Nov

     Figure 3. Effect of annual ryegrass sowing rate (kg) on dry matter yield (t DM/ha) at
               each grazing.

     The effect on total DM yield is shown in Figure 4 and indicates that highest DM yields were
     achieved at a sowing rate of 40 kg/ha (9.9 t DM/ha). The DM yield at 30 kg/ha was 9.6 t DM/ha
     indicating an improvement of 300 kg DM/ha over the growing period between these sowing rates.
     The difference between 20 and 30 kg/ha sowing rates was 600 kg DM/ha.

                      Total DM yield (t DM/ha)






                                                        10   15            20       25        30      35              40   45       50
                                                                                          sowing rate

     Figure 4. Effect of annual ryegrass sowing rate (kg/ha) on total dry matter yield (t DM/ha).

                                                                                    - 24 -
         3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

There were only small differences between annual ryegrass cultivars in terms of DM yield, with
Progrow producing more feed at the first grazing, whilst both tetraploid cultivars produced more
feed at the October grazing (Figure 5). Total DM yields over the trial period were similar.



 DM yield (t DM/ha)







                                                   15-Jun         18-Jul     17-Aug          20-Sep    15-Oct     7-Nov   Total
                                                                                        Grazing Date
                                                            Abundant   Progrow     Winterstar

Figure 5. Effect of grazing and annual ryegrass cultivar on total DM yield (t DM/ha)’
Generally N responses were similar at each grazing with increased N application resulting in
more DM being grown. There was no difference between application every grazing and every
other grazing in terms of total DM grown although there were some differences in the pattern of
production. Figure 6 presents the effect of N application on total DM grown. Response rates
were 15.3, 11.9 and 8.5 kg DM per kg N applied at the 15, 30 and 45 kg N/ha application rates.
Additional DM grown over the growing period was 0.92, 1.43 and 1.53 t DM/ha for the 15, 30
and 45 kg N/ha application rates. Based on urea costs of $800 t (inc spreading) the cost of this
additional feed was 10.9, 13.9 and 19.7 c/kg DM.
                       Total DM yield (t DM/ha)

                                                        0              10               20             30           40            50
                                                                                 N rate after grazing (kg N/ha)

Figure 6. Effect of nitrogen (N) application on total dry matter yield (t DM/ha).

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  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

Whilst yet to be fully analysed, data for ME and CP of the annual ryegrass cultivars at each
grazing indicates only small differences between cultivars (Table 5) with all cultivars maintaining
a high ME and CP right through the study.

Table 5. Metabolisable energy (MJ ME/kg DM) and crude protein (CP as %DM) of
         Abundant, Progrow and Winterstar at each grazing

                  Abundant (Tetraploid)         Progrow (Diploid)         Winterstar (Tetraploid)
                    ME           CP             ME           CP             ME             CP

15 June            11.9          34.4          11.6          33.6          11.4           33.6
18 July            12.5          31.1          12.1          30.3          12.5           30.9
17 August          12.5          27.3          12.2          27.4          12.4           27.9
20 September       12.2          25.9          12.6          24.9          12.8           26.2
15 October         11.6          22.1          11.6          20.6          11.7           21.7
7 November         11.1          19.0          11.7          19.7          11.9           21.2

Summary:        Optimum yield of annual ryegrass occurred at 30 – 40 kg/ha sowing rate.
Similar yields were achieved from the 3 cultivars. Quality was consistently high throughout the
growing period.

Cereal and Pea combinations: Effect on DM yield and nutritive value for whole
crop silage

Winter forage cereals offer potential on dryland dairy farms for both grazing and ensiling
opportunities, but questions remain over the nutritive value of resultant silage as a feed for
lactating dairy cows. This study evaluated the potential of growing peas in combination with
forage cereals to improve the nutritive value of silage whilst maintaining dry matter (DM) yields.

The study was established using wheat (cv Wedgetail) or triticale (cv Crackerjack) in a range of
combinations with peas (cv Kaspa). Treatments were 100% cereal (W100; T100) or 100% pea
(P100) and combinations of cereal and pea at 75:25 (W75P25; T75P25), 50:50 (W50P50;
T50P50) and 25:75 (W25P75; T25P75) with ratios based on sowing rate (137 kg/ha). Additional
N (100 kg N/ha) was applied to all treatments when the cereal crops reached GS 32.

Samples were taken at boot (GS 45) and soft dough (GS 85) to assess for DM yield and nutritive
value. At GS 85, the crops were harvested using a precision chop forage harvester and samples
taken to ensile in small laboratory scale 4 kg silos. Material for each treatment was ensiled either
untreated or with one of two additives (LaSil or Sil-All 4x4). Silos were opened 120 days after
ensiling and samples analysed for DM content and nutritive characteristics

At GS 45, DM yield of the P100 treatment was less than for all other treatments (Table 6). At GS
85 there was no difference between the P100 treatment and all wheat treatments. However, all
triticale treatments except T25P75 had higher DM yields than the P100 treatment.

At GS 45, the CP of P100, T25P75 and W25P75 were higher than either T100 or W100, whilst
the NDF content of P100 was lower than the 100% cereal treatments (Table 7). At GS 85 the CP
and ME of P100 was higher and the NDF lower than for all other treatments. The ME of T100
was higher and NDF lower than the W100 treatment. The WSC of P100 was lower than all other

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  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

treatments, whilst all triticale treatments had higher WSC levels than the corresponding wheat
Table 6. Dry matter (DM) yields (t DM/ha) and growth rates (GR) (kg DM/ha/d) for
triticale (T), wheat (W), peas (P) and cereal/pea combinations at GS 45 and GS 85

                  Triticale GS 45                  Wheat GS 45                  GS 85
               DM yield      GR sow to         DM yield   GR sow to     DM yield     GR GS45
                              GS 45                         GS 45                     to GS 85

T100              7.55          55.9                                      15.61              146.7
T75P25            7.41          54.9                                      18.01              192.6
T50P50            6.54          48.5                                      16.36              178.5
T25P75            6.73          49.8                                      13.71              127.0
P100              4.54          33.6              5.16        37.2        12.06              136.8
W100                                              7.44        49.9        13.52              148.5
W75P25                                            7.17        48.1        12.51              130.1
W50P50                                            6.82        45.8        13.30              158.1
W25P75                                            6.61        44.3        13.52              108.8
LSD               0.743          5.50             1.013        6.03        2.603              56.08

The CP and ME of the resultant P100 silage was higher and the NDF lower than for all other
treatments (Table 8), whilst the CP content of all cereal/pea combinations was higher than the
T100 or W100 treatments. The ME of T50P50 and T25P75was higher than for T100. The CP
content of wheat silages increased with increasing pea content. All wheat treatments had higher
CP and ME than their corresponding triticale treatments.

The Sil-All 4x4 treated silages had a higher CP than either the untreated or the LaSil treated
silages, whilst ME content of Sil-All 4x4 treated silages was higher than for LaSil treated silages.

Table 7. Crude protein (CP as % DM), metabolisable energy (MJ ME/kg DM), neutral
detergent fibre (NDF as %DM) and water soluble carbohydrate (WSC as % DM) of
triticale (T), wheat (W), peas (P) and cereal/pea combinations at GS 45 and GS 85

                                 GS 45                                         GS 85
                 CP         ME           NDF         WSC       CP       ME             NDF        WSC

T100            15.66       9.21        60.28         7.83     8.66    10.03       47.92          24.57
T75P25          15.50       9.06        61.35         5.87     7.52     9.64       48.36          26.99
T50P50          16.99       9.42        56.65         6.71     8.40     9.76       47.83          25.62
T25P75          19.36      10.01        52.07         8.08    10.49    10.15       45.61          22.76
P100            21.59       9.66        43.76         5.13    16.96    11.26       35.31          10.56
LSD              2.403      0.593        2.162        2.215
P100            19.09       8.34        50.32         2.93
W100            15.51       8.74        64.62         3.74    11.19      9.41      51.77          16.75
W75P25          17.70       8.71        58.71         4.18    10.72      9.45      51.49          18.60
W50P50          16.76       8.43        58.77         2.39    12.35      9.68      49.35          14.83
W25P75          18.33       8.78        55.59         3.11    10.91      9.28      51.47          14.26
LSD              1.909      0.398        2.905        1.234    1.343     0.433      2.282          1.697

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  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

Although the inclusion of peas with wheat did not adversely affect DM yield, it did not improve
the nutritive value of the standing crop at harvest. In contrast, triticale as a monoculture or at the
higher triticale ratios out yielded peas although CP content did improve when peas were
combined at the highest ratio (T25P75) with triticale. The DM yield observed for the pea
treatment is not dissimilar to that found in work undertaken in NSW, albeit with a different pea
cultivar. This DM yield indicates that there may be potential in growing peas as a monoculture in
this environment over the winter/spring period.

Whilst sowing peas with triticale did not really improve the nutritive value, there may in fact be
merit in developing systems where the two forages are grown as monocultures but subsequently
mixed prior to ensiling, thus ensuring the DM yield benefits of triticale and the nutritive value of
peas are combined. Based on the data from this study and a 50:50 mix of pea and triticale
monocultures, DM yields, ME and CP values of close to 14 t DM/ha, 10.5 MJ/kg DM and 12.2%
at ensiling may be achievable suggesting this may be a viable option.

Table 8. Dry matter content (DM as % DM), crude protein (CP as % DM), metabolisable
energy (MJ ME/kg DM) and neutral detergent fibre (NDF as %DM) of silages made from
triticale (T), wheat (W), peas (P) and cereal/pea combinations made with either Sil-All 4x4
and LaSil additives or untreated

Crop Type/mix       DM (% DM)           CP (% DM)       ME (MJ ME/kg DM)         NDF (% DM)

T100                      29.8                8.12               9.03                   59.9
T75P25                    29.0                8.77               9.12                   59.1
T50P50                    30.3                8.84               9.28                   58.5
T25P75                    26.1               11.45               9.49                   54.9
P100                      19.1               15.91              11.48                   37.1
W100                      30.6               11.23               9.63                   55.5
W75P25                    26.6               11.93               9.75                   54.1
W50P50                    26.2               12.25               9.85                   53.7
W25P75                    26.05              13.54               9.75                   54.9
LSD (P=0.05)               0.68               0.261              0.148                   1.23

Control                   27.1               11.27               9.69                   54.0
Sil-All 4x4               27.3               11.61               9.77                   53.2
LaSil                     27.0               11.14               9.67                   54.1
LSD (P=0.05)               0.39               0.151              0.085                   0.71

The resultant silages further highlight the high nutritive value of peas in contrast to the forage
cereals. Where peas were included at rates above 50% of the mix, the CP and ME were generally
higher than for the cereal monocultures. Furthermore, if total ME per ha (GJ/ha) is calculated, the
P100 (138.5 GJ/ha) out yields all treatments except T50P50 and T75P25 and the P100 also
produces the most CP per ha.

The DM content of peas at ensiling was markedly lower than all other treatments and at the levels
observed it would generally be considered appropriate to wilt prior to ensiling. At this DM
content, the WSC as a proportion of fresh weight was 2%, below the level considered required for
adequate fermentation to occur. Whilst this may indicate difficulties with ensiling, the fact that
the CP content of the pea silage has remained constant in relation to the fresh material indicates a
more controlled fermentation with little loss through extensive proteolysis.

                                              - 28 -
  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

One of the benefits of direct ensiling is a reduction in the likelihood of field losses, therefore it
may be possible to either defer ensiling until the DM of the standing crop increases or ensile with
a higher DM material such as a forage cereal. The use of Sil-All 4x4 silage additive appears to
have led to improvements in the CP content of silage, indicating that it may have limited protein
breakdown during fermentation, a feature of this additive. Analysis of fermentation parameters
(pH, ammonia-N, lactic, acetic and butyric acid) will provide further information on the effects of
silage additives.

Summary:          Including peas in a winter cereal sowing mix does not adversely affect dry matter
yield of silage but did not always improve quality. This was largely due to the cereal dominating
due to its taller growth habit (especially triticale). It is speculated that, with tall cereal cultivars,
there may be merit in growing peas and cereals as mono-cultures and mixing at ensiling. DM
content at ensiling and use of inoculants are important for silage fermentation and storage.

Double cropping with winter and summer forage crops

Existing production systems (perennial ryegrass based pastures) commonly experience feed
deficits in winter and summer and alternative strategies to increase on-farm forage production and
to even out the seasonal distribution of forage production need to be developed while also
maximizing use of the ryegrass pasture base. Winter cereals offer the potential of a high yielding
crop on dairy farms, whilst using brassica crops in summer can provide additional feed of a high
nutritional value.

Initial modelling work indicated that double cropping systems (winter cereal followed by a
summer turnip crop) or pastures with better summer shoulder production were found to lead to
worthwhile improvements in forage grown and consumed and in turn profitability, whereas using
a single summer turnip crop or winter cereal crop did not result in a big shift in profitability.

With this in mind a study was established in spring 2005 to compare double cropping systems
with a perennial ryegrass control. The treatments in this study are outlined in Figure 7. Maximum
tillage involves cultivation (ploughing and power harrowing) prior to the sowing of each crop,
whilst for minimum tillage, apart from cultivation prior to the first summer crop, each following
crop has been direct drilled. Prior to the sowing of the summer forage crop in year 2, each plot
was sub divided and in the following autumn half was sown to the forage cereal and the other half
to annual ryegrass (cv.Winterstar). This was done to provide a direct comparison between forage
cereal and annual ryegrass.

                               Year 1                 Year 2                         Year 3
                     Summer       Winter         Summer Winter             Summer       Winter

Maximum till         Turnips      Triticale      Turnips      Triticale    Winfred       Triticale
Double cropping
                                                              ARG          Winfred       ARG

Minimum till                                                  Triticale    Winfred       Triticale
Double cropping
                                                              ARG          Winfred       ARG
Figure 7. Double cropping treatments.

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  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

Figure 8 shows the DM yields by each growing period for each treatment. For the perennial
ryegrass, DM consumed was 9.2, 7.8 t DM/ha for years 1 and 2 and a further 2.8 t DM/ha over
last summer. These consumption figures are close to 80 – 85% of what was grown over that



   DM yield (t DM/ha)




                             Pasture         DC-Min         DC-Min ARG          DC-Max          DC-Max-ARG
                 Oct 05-Feb 06   Mar 06-Oct 06   Nov 06-Mar 07   Apr 07-Oct07   Nov 07-Jan 08

Figure 8. DM consumption of perennial ryegrass and DM yields of double cropping

For the minimum tillage double cropping system, the DM yields for years 1 and 2 were 21.1 t
DM/ha each year, although the contribution of each crop did differ between years. In year 1, the
summer crop of turnips contributed 3.3 t DM/ha, whilst in the summer of 2006 (Decile 1) only
0.2 t DM/ha was grown. The DM yields for the maximum tillage double cropping system were
23.4 and 24.9 t DM/ha for years 1 and 2.

Where plots were split and annual ryegrass also grown in year 2, the comparative DM yields of
the triticale and annual ryegrass were 19.9 and 13.1 t DM/ha for the minimum tillage and 24.5
and 14.2 t DM/ha for the maximum tillage respectively. The annual ryegrass was grazed twice
and subsequently locked up for silage which was cut at the same time as the triticale in late

It is noted that the DM yields from the cultivated treatments has been consistently higher than the
no tillage treatment and it is likely that this is reflecting ongoing mineralisation of soil N and
perhaps an easier ability to establish a root system, especially in summer. Obviously the process
of cultivation does increase the costs of the crop and this also needs to be considered.

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  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

It is important to note that the values for perennial ryegrass are for consumed feed and those for
the double cropping are yields. Therefore, in an attempt to better compare the perennial ryegrass
and double cropping losses of 10% for summer crops and 20% for winter crops have been used
for the data in Table 9. Also presented in this table is the total ME produced per ha (MJ/ha).
These figures have been calculated using ME values of 11.5, 13, 9 and 11 for perennial pasture,
summer crops, forage cereals and annual ryegrass respectively. The higher value for perennial
ryegrass reflects the cow’s ability to select more leaf material under grazing.

Table 9. Comparative DM utilised (t DM/ha) and metabolisable energy utilised (MJ/ha)

                                      Year 1                           Year 2
                              Consumed      MJ ME/ha           Consumed      MJ ME/ha

Per. Rye Grass                      9.2       105,800                 7.8        89,700
Minimum Till      Cereal           17.2       166,761                16.1       145,836
                  ARG                                                10.63      117,290
Maximum Till      Cereal           19.3       194,274                19.9       180,720
                  ARG                                                11.70      129,420

Clearly the double cropping systems using forage cereals and summer crops not only produced
higher DM yields, it was also able to produce more ME per ha despite having a lower energy
density. It is this lower energy density that remains a challenge for the subsequent use of whole
crop cereal silage in the diet of lactating dairy cows. At values of close to 9 MJ/kg DM it is likely
that these feeds could only make up a small proportion of the diet in early lactation, but may be of
more value later in lactation or even during the dry period. It is however possible that other work
in this project investigating the use of field peas as a means to improve nutritive value may result
in improvements in the nutritive value of whole crop silage.

Summary:          Double cropping using winter cereals and summer brassicas provides much
higher yields than either perennial ryegrass or annual ryegrass. Energy density of cereals limits
its use in the diet of lactating animals. Summer crop yields are lower and unreliable in lower
rainfall areas such as Terang. For all crops there was a yield advantage from cultivation
compared to minimum tillage.


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  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

                                     Grazing Cereals
                                                                                   Frank Mickan
                                                                                   DPI, Ellinbank


    •   All cereals can be grazed at any time during the tillering growth stages
    •   The longer grazing is delayed, the greater the amount of forage available
    •   Graze down to about 10 cm
    •   Grazing should be completed by the stem elongation (GS 30) growth stage
    •   If high silage yields are required, do not graze at all
    •   Nutritive value of cereals is comparable to ryegrass during tillering

In recent years some farmers have sown forage cereals for grazing in autumn and to be conserved
as silage (and hay) in spring. A major advantage of cereals for dairying is the ability for some
(forage oats and winter wheats) to be sown early (late Feb – early April) and all are able to
withstand false breaks compared to ryegrasses. Cereals are particularly advantageous in years
with late breaks because they can provide more feed in cooler conditions than ryegrass. If cereals
without a winter habit are sown too early, they will often “bolt” i.e. produce a seedhead in autumn
instead of spring.

Cereals can produce large quantities of forage if grazed once and then closed for silage. Their
nutritive value does vary throughout their various growth stages. Although cereals can be
continually grazed throughout winter and early spring, their total dry matter (DM) production as
silage is greatly reduced. If this was to be the case, cereals, even forage cereals, should not be
seen as replacements for ryegrass pastures but they can be a worthy complement to ryegrass in
several situations.

They are best suited for run-off blocks or areas of the farm not generally grazed as part of the
milking platform although they can be used in a pasture renovation program if the soil type and
rainfall suits. There are several guidelines to consider when grazing cereals and will be dealt with
in the rest of this article.

Which cereals can be grazed?

All cereals (oats, barley wheat triticale and rye) can be grazed. This includes red and winter
wheats and spring and autumn sown cereals. Winter wheats have been bred to stay leafy for a
long time and require a cold spell (vernalisation period) to trigger seed head commencement,
similar to ryegrasses. Dual purpose cereals have been bred for both grazing and then harvesting
as either hay or grain but have not been bred specifically for leafiness compared to the forage
cereals. Forage cereals have been specifically bred for grazing and harvesting as silage due to
their later maturing and leafiness.

When can grazing begin?

Grazing of cereals can begin after they pass the “twist and pluck” test. That is, the entire plant is
not removed from the soil when a sprig of leaves is grasped by the hand, twisted and pulled, as if
being grazed by an animal. This is usually about the 3 leaf stage.

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  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

Joe Jacobs, carrying out 3030 research at DemoDairy, investigated the effect of grazing once only
on DM yield at various stages of growth of a winter wheat (Mackellar) and a forage triticale
(Crackerjack) and on the subsequent silage yield (cut at soft dough stage, GS 85). Both were
sown on 14th. April, 2007 and grazing occurred at GS 21 (main stem + 1tiller) or early tillering
(Figure 1), GS 24 (main stem + 4 tillers) or mid tillering (Figure 2), GS 30 or stem elongation
when the growing point is starting to move up inside the stem, and at GS 32 (Figure 3), when 2
nodes can be seen at the bottom section of the stem (Figure 4).

                                        Figure 2: Mortlock oats GS 24
Figure 1: Granador triticale GS 21

Figure 3. Crackerjack triticale GS 32         Figure 4. Close up of triticale showing nodes

The impact of grazing at the above growth stages on DM yield at each growth stage and on the
subsequent silage yield is shown in Figure 5 (Mackellar wheat 5) and Figure 6 (Crackerjack

                                           - 33 -
  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

What is most important in both these species is the amount of cereal forage (kg DM) available for
grazing. The longer that grazing was delayed, the greater the DM yield available for grazing
(Figure 5 & 6). Although both were sown mid-April and this sowing date best suited the triticale,
the winter wheat can be sown much earlier, if moisture is available. This initial and single
grazing has been very beneficial for autumn calving herds as this reasonable amount of early feed
        enabled the ryegrass pastures to “get ahead”
        avoided having to set up sacrifice paddocks
        avoided or reduced the need for supplementary feeds (silage/hay/concentrates)
        avoided overgrazing of the new autumn growth of ryegrass pastures.

As a rough rule of thumb, cereals can provide about 1500 – 2200 kg DM/ha in the first grazing at
about GS 25 – 27 (1 main stem + 5 – 7 tillers). Consider starting to graze at about mid tillering
(~GS 24 – 26) so that grazing is completed well before GS 30 or stem elongation occurs.

Mackellar winter wheat
This research has also shown that Mackellar wheat can be grazed up to GS 30 without any effect
on silage yield (Figure 5) and although grazing at GS 32 did cause a slight decrease in total yield
compared to grazing at GS 30, it did not differ in total yield when compared to not being grazed
at all. However, statistically, there were no differences between the total yields from wheat grazed
at GS 30, GS 32 and Not Grazed.

My own experiences working with farmers and service providers (contractors seed and spray
companies, etc) in an activity called Forage Insights has verified this research on farm but some
winter wheats did produce slightly more total feed (grazed + silage) when grazed compared to no

                                                         Grazing       Silage
    Dry Matter yield (kg DM/ha)

                                        12.17    13.74        12.71        10.3   14.69
                                   6                                       4.32
                                   4                          2.67
                                   2    0.48     1.28
                                       GS 21    GS 24        GS 30       GS 32    NG

Figure 5: Effect of grazing Mackellar winter WHEAT at different growth stages on dry
          matter yields (Kg DM/ha)

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  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

Crackerjack triticale
Unlike the winter wheat, the Crackerjack triticale did not recover fully from grazing at any stage
although total yield was slightly higher (~ 1.5 – 2.1 t DM/ha) at GS 24 than at GS 21, 30 or 32
(Figure 6). However, the total yield of the ungrazed triticale yielded from ~1.6 – 5+ t DM/ha
above the grazed crops.
This effect of grazing on final silage and total DM yields are typical of earlier cereal research at
DemoDairy and from observations on Forage Insights Activities on-farm. It should be noted that
sowing rate, soil fertility, weed problems, canopy closure and especially moisture availability can
all impact on DM yields and nutritive values after grazing to varying degrees.

                                                          Grazing      Silage
    Dry Matter Yields (kg DM/ha)



                                   10                                              19.85
                                                  14.92        12.69       10.79
                                   5                                       3.36
                                         0.59     1.31         1.82

                                        GS 21    GS 24        GS 30       GS 32    NG

Figure 6: Effect of grazing Crackerjack TRITICALE at different growth stages on dry
          matter yields (Kg DM/ha)

Nutritive values of GRAZED cereals (GS 21 – GS 32)

Both species produced forage of very high energy value or metabolisable energy (megajoules of
metabolisable energy per kilogram dry matter or MJ ME/kg DM, simplified to ME), greater than
13.3 ME, although the triticale at GS 30 had decreased to 12.8 ME, both species were even of
lower nutritive value by GS 32.

The crude protein content (as a percentage of DM or % CP) up to GS 30 ranged from 30 – 37%
CP during tillering but dropped about 6% units from GS 30 to GS 32 to about 23% CP.

Nutritive values of whole crop cereal SILAGE cut at GS 85 (Soft Dough)

After grazing at each growth stage, both species were left to grow to produce a silage crop. They
were all cut at the soft dough stage (GS 85). Soft dough is when the grain has formed but when

                                                              - 35 -
  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

squeezed between the finger nails, feels soft similar to a soft cheese such as a Brie cheese and is
sometimes called the “Cheesy dough stage.”

Typically, the wheat was sightly higher in ME (0.6 – 1.0 MJ ME/kg DM) than the triticales at
silage harvest. The crude protein content of the wheat was also typically higher, approximately
1.5 – 2.4 %, than the triticale. See page 22, Tables 3 and 4 for a full report of the nutritive values
of the wheat and triticale crops mentioned above.

The trends of the yields in Figure 5 and 6 are also typical of my experiences with the Forage
Insight Activities on-farm measurements. The impact of grazing of this triticale is typical of other
forage triticales, dual purpose barleys and forage oats with the winter wheats yielding less but of
slightly higher nutritive value. The actual figures will vary according to rainfall, intensity and
timing of grazing, soil fertility, nitrogen application, etc. but the trends will be similar.

To what height should stock graze down to?

This is often debated. Similarly to ryegrass, cereal regrowth uses energy stored in the stubble to
regenerate new leaves. The lower the residual i.e. stubble height, the slower the regrowth.
Southern farming Systems research has recorded reduced grain yields when Triticale plots were
cut below about 6 - 7 cm vs 5 – 6 cm for other cereals.

Recent research at Badgingarra, WA, has shown that when three wheat crops (Marombi, Wylah
and Wedgetail) were cut (simulated grazing) to either 5 or 10 cm height, they produced 22 – 27%
more DM production (and grain yield) when grazed to 10 cm (Figure 7) compared to 5 cm.
Visual inspections of plants during hge Forage Insight Activities verifies this research.

                                                           5 cm         10 cm
    Dry Matter Yield (kg DM/ha

                                 10000          8720                                     8400
                                 8000    7130                   7200


                                         Marombi                 Wylah          Wedgetail

Figure 7. Effect of grazing height on yields of winter wheats

The younger the crop at grazing and/or the longer the grazing duration, the lower will be the
residual. Conversely, if the crop is too long before grazing (~GS 28 – 32), the stems are
becoming thicker (Figure 8) and residuals will be much higher and more variable in height. At
this latter stage trampling and waste can increase substantially (Figure 9).

                                                       - 36 -
  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

Mow, wilt and graze?

To ensure a relatively even grazing and leaving a constant residual stubble height, some farmers
have considered mowing the night before, leaving the crop to wilt overnight and then grazing the
next day. One Forage Insight group in south west Victoria did this in a crop of forage triticale and
a winter wheat in comparison with grazing only. This occurred in winter (mid June, 2007) so
wilting was negligible. Although the mow + wilt + graze crop was slightly more even post-
grazing, the group felt that the expense, labour and time involved was not worth the effort.

However, a mow, wilt + graze should be considered when the crop is approaching GS 30 to
ensure an even grazing and, to reduce some (but not all) trampling, and to avoid the grazing of
any growing points which may be appearing.

Figure 8. Wintaroo oats GS 32                         Figure 9. Oats GS 32 trampled at grazing

How many grazings?

No grazing: If silage yield is to be maximised, cereal crops should not be grazed at all.

One grazing + silage: One grazing mid-tillering will usually result in a reduction in silage yield
and cause a reduction in total yield (grazing + silage) of approx. 15 – 25% in most cereals but not

Two grazings + silage: Two grazings, the second being at or straight after GS 30, will severely
reduce silage yields in most cereals and substantially reduce total DM yield (grazing + silage)
when compared to a crop not grazed.

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     3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

Grazing only: Unfortunately, repeated grazing of cereals has not been researched in Australia in
a cattle situation. Undoubtedly, continual rotational grazing of cereals will substantially reduce
total yields although silage yields will still be well above most pasture silage harvest yields, albeit
at lower quality, especially if cut at the soft dough stage (GS 83 - 85). For autumn calving herds,
several early grazings and the high price of milk will most likely offset the greatly reduced silage
yield as well as taking some” pressure off” the ryegrass pastures.

When should grazing stop?

Research by Joe Jacob at DemoDairy and Southern Farming Systems investigated one vs two
grazings and then closed for silage vs No grazing (Figure 10). The first grazing was at early
tillering (GS 21-22), whilst the second grazing was after the start of stem elongation (GS 32).
This research also verifies that grazing should stop before stem elongation begins (GS 30). If the
area to be grazed is large, or stock numbers are low, then grazing should begin early- mid
tillering, approximately GS 24 – 26, to ensure animals are removed by GS 30.

Grazing will delay crop maturity by a few days to about 2 weeks. That is, flowering and grain
formation is delayed. The later into tillering is the grazing, the greater the delay. This information
could be very useful when choosing cultivars and their susceptibility to frost damage at flowering.
Cereal crops are most vulnerable to damage if affected by frost during flowering, often producing
“pinched” grain or even resulting in failure of grain to form, both leading to reduced yields and



 DM yield (t DM/ha)


                                        Grazed x2
                                        Grazed x1



                          G1 G2 SIL G1 G2 SIL G1 G2 SIL G1 G2 SIL G1 G2 SIL G1 G2 SIL G1 G2 SIL

                          Crackerjack     Dictator   Enterprise        Jackie   McKellar   Taipan   Wedgetail

Figure 10. Effect of grazing of cereals on silage and total dry matter yields

                                                                  - 38 -
  3030: Increasing profit by 30% through consuming 30% more home-grown forage

Some other considerations when grazing cereals

Avoid pugging. Cereals are very prone to damage if pugged during grazing on wet soils. Allow
the ground surface to become firm before grazing and/or practice on-off grazing to avoid plant

Nitrate poisoning. Cereals can have very high nitrate concentration during tillering and may
cause nitrate poisoning if not managed accordingly. This danger can be identified by testing for
nitrate levels in the crop before grazing. The animals should be managed to ensure they are not
hungry by offering some silage or hay before entering the cereal crop.

Mineral imbalance. Cereals are renowned for a potassium and sodium imbalance, potassium
being high, sodium being low. This imbalance can reduce the absorption of magnesium in the
rumen, which MAY lead to lower growth rates and some grass tetany. This has been identified as
a possible problem in sheep grazing cereals for lengthy periods but for dairy stock which usually
only graze on-off and/or have access to silage/hay and concentrates or pasture, should not be a
major problem.

Nitrogen fertiliser. Although the DemoDairy research found little or negligible response to
nitrogen fertiliser application, this was probably due to the high soil fertility and relatively high
organic matter common in most dairy pastures. However, lighter soils eg. sandy loams, and soils
which have been cropped regularly, will most likely need to be sown with a super/nitrogen
fertiliser and be top dressed with N (40 – 60 kg N/ha) again after the first grazing.

Website for Project 3030.


                                              - 39 -
The financial support of the following Project
3030 funders and partners is gratefully