Pasture cropping finding favour

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Dual-purpose crops are gaining ground in the northern Wheatbelt, as growers look to make the most out of their paddocks.

Mingenew Irwin Group (MIG) held a field walk last week, exploring cereal grazing and pasture cropping.

MIG is hosting five farmer demonstrations in the region this year and plans to establish a plot trial in spring.

Irwin farmer Andrew Gillam is preparing to put sheep into his wheat paddocks this month.

Mr Gillam grazed his cereal crops for the first time last season as part of the Grain and Graze project.

He said last year’s trial resulted in yield decreases in the crops that were grazed, but he was able to give his pasture paddocks a rest.

“The intention is to be able to increase our stocking rate by utilising other sources of fodder at a time when pastures are short, ” he said.

“Last year it had an impact on our yields, but we might have left the sheep on the crops too long.”

Mr Gillam said determining when to take his stock off his cereal paddocks was difficult.

AgVivo consultant Phil Barrett-Lennard said farmers were advised to take stock off cereal paddocks before the crops reach the start of stem elongation, which usually occurs in about mid to late July.

MIG president and cattle farmer Craig Forsyth sowed oats, wheat and triticale into a 30 hectare perennial pasture paddock this season.

Mr Forsyth said he wanted to run up to 600 young cattle on the paddock and assess the economic viability of pasture cropping.

“Our main aim is to give our paddocks as much bulk as possible and give our paddocks a mandatory rest and recovery period, ” he said.

“I normally put pastures in my worst country, but the aim of the trial is to see if it is worth putting cereals on perennials.”

Mr Forsyth said he would decide in spring whether he would harvest the trial paddock.

Mr Barrett-Lennard said pasture cropping improved farmers’ flexibility.

“Pasture paddocks are usually slow in winter, so that’s when farmers can grow a crop on them, ” he said.

“It is not all about taking the grain through to harvest. Farmers can graze the crops in winter, hang onto them and still have bulk in spring.”

Mr Barrett-Lennard said this season was a good opportunity to crop into pasture, because of the past few dry years. “We’ve had a few dry years and the density of pasture is quite low, so cereals can increase the bulk, ” he said.

Future Farm CRC is also collating data from the demonstration sites, to accompany information about a pasture cropping trial in Moora.

MIG is expected to host more field days in spring.

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