Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Maximising home grown feed

High grain prices mean farmers are looking for ways of getting the most out of their own feed.

October 31, 2012 4:01am

Katunga Field DayDPI dairy extension officer Tom Farran addresses a group of dairy farmers.

This season’s reduced milk prices and dramatic rises in grain prices are pushing dairy farmers to grow more feed rather than buy it, Department of Primary Industries Tatura dairy extension officer Tom Farran says.

Twenty farmers attended a field day on Ross and Melissa Nicoll’s Katunga dairy farm last week to learn ways to maximise home-grown feed.

Mr Farran and DPI Tatura senior research agronomist Kevin Kelly said good grazing, irrigation and fertiliser management were important for getting the most out of pastures during summer.

Mr Farran said ryegrass-predominant pastures grew best when between 4cm and 6cm of stubble was left after grazing, because this was the plant’s ‘‘battery’’ that promoted new growth.

He said it was also important not to let the pastures overgrow, and to graze or top them when plants had two or three leaves.

Irrigation, particularly the topic of buying temporary water, stirred the most conversation among the dairy farmers.

‘‘At $40/Ml, farmers are buying water and growing as much grain as they can,’’ Mr Farran said.

He said it was important to work out a water budget and how much water individual farms would use.

He also suggested farmers talk to Goulburn-Murray Water because some farms could have their allocations increased.

The field day also covered nitrogen-based fertiliser management. Mr Kelly said there was a ‘‘law of diminishing returns’’ with the amount of nitrogen/ha spread and its effect on growth.

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