Title: 'Weeds' cut forage costs
[Weekly Times, p. 81 By Emma Fiel, 18 May 2011] -- GROWING alternative forage crops could be as easy as looking at the weeds on the roadside, Gippsland dairy farmers have been told. Gormandale dairy farmers Peta and Benn Thexton’s unconventional pasture system, which includes the natural -- or what some may call weed -- prairie grass was on display at a recent GippsDairy field day. To drive further efficiencies it their 12Oha-dairy operation, the Thexton’s base pasture selection on soil type -- mixing ryegrass with perennial prairie grass, chicory, clover and tall fescue. The couple decided to change the pasture system, which supports 245 cows to reduce their annual $30,000-$50,000 ryegrass re-sowing bill.
Previously, all pasture paddocks were planted to ryegrass, along with turnips and sorghum fodder crops. The Thextons have three types of soil on their farm sandy loam at the top, clay loam in the middle and heavy peat on the river flats. Fescue is now planted on the low-lying heavy soil, ryegrass on the good clay loam paddocks and prairie grass with chicory and clover in the sandy soils.
Mr Thexton was the first to admit that prairie grass was not exactly a trendy’’ pasture species, as it grows as a weed along the roadside and more often than not, it’s sprayed-out in ryegrass paddocks. "It was ideal," Mr Thexton said. "We wanted to reduce our costs and we knew it would be dollars straight into our pocket," he added. "It was the only thing still growing in the dry summer, so it was the obvious choice,"
Mrs Thexton said. Interlact Australia technical manager Neil Lane said prairie grass held as a permanent pasture, was good feed for cows and grew well in light soil. "It’s deeper rooted than ryegrass, is a prolific self-seeding plant and it doesn’t go into complete dormancy," Mr Lane said. He said planting alternative perennial pastures was one great way to reduce costs.
Caption Text: Alternative types: Gormandale farmers Benn and Peta Thexton with 22-month-old son Cooper, grow a mix of pastures on their property.