SILAGE IS KEY TO FEEDLOT’S SUCCESS IN DRY
Optimising harvest helps to survive 100% capacity
Anything can grow in a good season. It’s what you can yield in a tough season that counts.
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.
SILAGE SOLUTION: Pioneer’s Ashley Wooderson and SBB agronomist Ross Newman inspect sorghum at Barmount Station.