Growing pasture is an art form and dairy farmers are pasture specialists because our cows demand (and so they should) the best quality pasture our soils can grow.
We have a highly intensive dairy farm system with the home farm having an effective milking area of only 50ha (actual land available to graze cows). Our key management strategy is to grow as much pasture as we can and this allows us to have a high stocking rate. We currently run 5 to 6 cows/ hectare. ( FYI this is 2.5 x the industry average)
The home farm has a pasture base of kikuyu – a South African grass that thrives (sometimes too well ) in our climate. Well managed “Kik” can be a very effective summer feed for our cows but it becomes almost dormant in the colder months. To ensure the cows have plenty of energy dense highly quality autumn/winter pasture we sow oats and annual ryegrass at Clover Hill. See footnote
Seeding season begins on 1st March every year and lasts for eight weeks and tends to be a very stressful period with two tractors operating around the clock.
One with a direct drill (above) on the flatter landscapes and one with a super spreader (below pix) broadcasting seed on the steep slopes.
These days we start with a light “knockdown spray” which stuns the kikuyu and allows the ryegrass and oats to establish well
We then broadcast the seed and let the dry (cows not milking) cows in to walk it in.
It doesn’t take long and the ryegrass and oats is just starting to poke through.
Its going to be a challenge in the next couple of weeks The farm is waterlogged and after the accident yesterday we are now short one tractor, so we are well and truly under the pump to deliver the best quality pasture on time for our girls.
“Walking on eggshells”
You can find out more information here
Footnote: When we have reviewed all of the perennial pasture trial results from Lemon Grove we hope to be able to translate that research into on farm action at Clover Hill