SILAGE IS KEY TO FEED­LOT’S SUC­CESS IN DRY

Op­ti­mis­ing har­vest helps to sur­vive 100% ca­pac­ity

Central and North Burnett Times - - PROFILE -

Any­thing can grow in a good sea­son. It’s what you can yield in a tough sea­son that counts.

ROSS

NEW­MAN

AC­CORD­ING TO agron­o­mist Ross New­man, silage is the best drought mit­i­ga­tion.

Luck­ily Bar­mount Sta­tion had enough silage to last a few years when the drought hit Cen­tral Queens­land.

As feed dried up across CQ, cat­tle were sent by the truck­load to the Clarke Creek feed­lot, half­way be­tween Rock­hamp­ton and Mackay.

Al­though the feed­lot had enough silage to last a few years, the huge in­crease in cat­tle com­ing in saw its stock­pile take a big hit.

Sean Con­aghan, who man­ages the fam­ily busi­ness at Bar­mount, said they re­ceived about 50mm of rain from Cy­clone Ita last weekend.

Ross New­man of Sav­age, Barker and Back­house, has been work­ing with Bar­mount to op­ti­mise its silage har­vest.

He said with the fore­cast for a dry sum­mer they had to con­sider what to grow to get the best bang for their buck.

“Any­thing can grow in a good sea­son. It’s what you can yield in a tough sea­son that counts,” he said.

Sean said they had al­most a 100% ca­pac­ity for about two years due to the drought – 8500 to 8700 head of cat­tle, which equates to about 87 to 97 tonnes of feed a day.

“Be­cause of the high de­mand in the feed­lot we had to fill a for­age gap be­tween Jan­uary and June, so we looked for a dry­land op­tion,” he said.

It took them eight months to re­pair their grain and ir­ri­ga­tion coun­try af­ter Cy­clone Oswald flooded the area in 2013.

“We needed a dry­land op­tion to fill the gap be­cause of the loss of ir­ri­ga­tion and silage pro­duc­tion,” Sean said.

They planted the Graze-N-Sile va­ri­ety in skip rows to give the crop more mois­ture at peak times, and planted in four stages from late Oc­to­ber to Fe­bru­ary, which re­duced some of the pres­sure around har­vest time.

Their last har­vest, in the first weekend in April, saw just un­der 800 tonnes of sorghum silage har­vested from an 80ha field.

“We planted know­ing we would be fac­ing some heat­wave con­di­tions in Jan­uary,” Sean said.

“We needed to have that feed to come out at this time be­cause we were so busy in the feed­lot.”

They planted on last year’s wheat crop, which Ross said was the only field that had any kind of mois­ture.

“All the sorghum coun­try from last year was dry, there was no stub­ble cover,” he said.

With heat­waves in Oc­to­ber and an­other in Jan­uary, Ross said they could have writ­ten the crop off.

They did re­ceive patchy rain­fall in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary to help it along.

“We are in a vari­able en­vi­ron­ment… farm­ing is all about risk and bal­anc­ing that level of risk,” Ross said.

PHOTO: RACHAEL CON­AGHAN

SILAGE SO­LU­TION: Pioneer’s Ash­ley Wood­er­son and SBB agron­o­mist Ross New­man in­spect sorghum at Bar­mount Sta­tion.

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