Brett is happy to mix it up

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

Pastures don't come a poor second to grains in Brett Whittington's mixed farming system.

Rather, the Brookton farmer believes a strong focus on pastures has not only improved the efficiency of the stock side of his operation, but the cropping as well.

Brett, who farms with his wife, Sue, said his eyes were opened about six years ago.

"I had three different pasture species in the same paddock and CSBP came and did some pasture cuts," he said.

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"The sub-clover did three tonnes and the other two species did 5.7 tonnes and 6.2 tonnes.

"I think we're all guilty of not measuring pasture because, frankly, if a wheat crop yielded double another wheat crop, we would be falling over ourselves to get that variety of wheat."

Species, including Prima gland and Margurita serradella, are mixed together to manage risk.

"Any one year, one variety will be disappointing," Brett said.

"As much as I love all these new varieties, and they're very productive, one of them will always stand out in a particular year and that's why I like the mix, because you've always got it right.

"I still put sub-clover in that mix, but if you've got a few different species in there it secures your production a bit more."

According to Brett, the key is to set pastures up right from the start, so they continue to work well into the future.

"I think the mistake people make is they will go and put clover in a paddock with no weed control, not look after it and then wonder why it doesn't look great," he said.

"If you're going to invest in these new pastures, do it properly.

"Treat it like a crop the first year - still graze it heavily - but from a weed point of view, treat it like a crop and you will be rewarded."

Part of that reward is not only improved DSE for the Whittingtons' Merinos and crossbreds, but the nitrogen boost for following crops provided by a well-managed legume pasture.

"I've been looking for species that you can go year in year out with crop, so you manipulate during the winter and if you can grow a decent amount of tonnes of good quality pasture then you've really got enough nitrogen for two crops," Brett said.

"I've actually got CSBP to do soil testing and I had a target yield of 3.5 tonnes.

"They recommended no nitrogen and when a fertiliser company recommends no nitrogen for 3.5 tonnes, I think we're going all right.

"The last two years we haven't used any post seeding nitrogen."

Bartolo bladder clover is a recent addition to the pasture operation.

"It's been commercially available for two years, but I've found it to be particularly vigorous and very impressive," Brett said.

"The seed set is very good, it has competed with capeweed well and that's pure plant numbers.

"Probably another advantage is it tends to germinate a couple days later than sub-clover, which does allow you to go in with a glyphosate or something like that and take out the capeweed or any of the early grasses very cheaply."

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