We have always believed that, as beef producers, we must first be pasture growers. If we have the soil minerals balanced and pastures choices right, then the cattle really look after themselves. As a consequence of purchasing a dairy property in 2005, we had a plan to change most of the pastures from annual to permanent, eventually.
We were lucky enough to purchase the property from astute farmers who presented us with a loose leaf book detailing , with a page for each paddock, the history of the farm whilst in their possession. I have kept this farm diary/history going as it is a tool I often refer to when things are not what they should be. The history includes soil tests, feed analysis, amount of hay and silage cut, fertilizer applied, seed sown and at what rate and cow usage.
Another circumstance of buying a dairy property in a "wet" area, was that the big dairy cattle had pugged up the ground which, not only made it dangerous when we were walking over the paddocks to check growth, but also was dangerous for the Lowlines and their calves, as they could have easily broken their legs going down these "Holstein holes" as I called them.
In the first year we totally resowed two paddocks with permanent pasture.
Last year we also resowed two paddocks. However, due to the drought, these two paddocks germination was not as good as we had hoped. We put this down to lack of follow up rain and the paddock not being rolled after power harrowing and seeding. This meant that there was not 100% soil contact with the seed. We wont make that costly mistake again! Our original plan was to renovate at least 15% of the property each year, if the season was suitable. Already we are behind with this plan due to the drought hitting us here in the South West.
Last year was the driest on record in this area. At Ardrossan at Princetown, we received an annual rainfall of just 700.45mls, when the average down here is over 1000mls. This equates to around 28 inches instead of around 40 inches
Early March we spread nearly the whole farm with a locally quarried limestone.
On the 22nd March, we started on one of our sheltered calving paddocks by power harrowing and sowing down a new Long Rotation Ryegrass, Barberia. This ryegrass lasts like a long rotation, is Endophyte free and is highly palatable - something we don't have to worry about with our Lowline cattle, as they will eat anything! As we experience some "staggers" in our first year down here, when the cattle were on the dairy pastures, we are now looking for "safe" varieties of pasture seed.
This Summer yield is what we are looking for to carry the cows and calves through to the Autumn break.
We will advise of its progress.
Calving Paddock prior to Renovation
On Wednesday 28th March we hope to sow down another five paddocks. Another new variety we are using is an Italian Ryegrass call Hulk. It has been developed in Australia for Australian conditions. It is fast establishing, even in dry years, fast growing allowing in this district a 14 day rotation. It is also Summer ctive and , as we intend to water it with our travelling irrigator after cutting it for hay, will give us a Summer alternative to the Summer crops of Millet and Rape we intend to grow. Hulks trialling by the Department of Primary Industry in 2003-4 in this area in yielded the following dry matter.
The two paddocks that had a disappointing result last year, are going to be direct drilled with Renovator Allgrass to give us the bulk we require. This should give us permanent pasture for many years to come.