For­age crops pave way for suc­cess

Countryman - - OPINION -

Af­ter suc­cess­ful re­sults last sea­son, for­age barley and oat crops are set to be­come an in­te­gral part and a key to un­lock­ing greater sheep num­bers and pro­duc­tion for the Mills fam­ily of Ene­abba.

David Mills, who owns the Ene­abba farm store and helps his son, Sam, with their farm, said he was ex­cited by what they had seen with for­age crops, es­pe­cially in the sea­son just gone.

“We reckon we can in­crease sheep num­bers by at least another 20 per cent, with­out a lot of changes, aside from grow­ing more for­age crops,” Mr Mills said.

The fam­ily crops about 600 hectares, and while the area sown to crops is not ex­pected to in­crease markedly, there will be a move to sow­ing more Dic­ta­tor 2 barley and Mam­moth oats.

“The late break in 2017 was the real eye-opener. A short­age of feed, rapidly cool­ing con­di­tions and the prospect of a short grow­ing sea­son re­ally put pres­sure on. Dic­ta­tor 2 barley re­ally came of age for us,” Mr Mills said.

“We’d been play­ing around with it for a few years. The late break meant it came up much later than nor­mal. Some wasn’t sown un­til the first week of July.

“By the end of July, we’d al­ready had sheep feed­ing off it. That’s the brilliant thing about the Dic­ta­tor 2, it’s just up and out of the ground so quickly. It was stocked 24 days af­ter sow­ing at the rate of 10 ewes and lambs per hectare.”

Mr Mills said the early graz­ing qual­ity of Dic­ta­tor 2 was “fan­tas­tic” and it could “take the graz­ing”.

“As an ex­am­ple, we put about 1400 sheep in a small three-hectare hold­ing pad­dock. Af­ter a cou­ple of days, they’d grazed the barley right down. The stock was taken off and four days later green shoots ap­peared. It bounced right back,” he said.

“The ad­van­tage for us with Dic­ta­tor 2 is that we get two good graz­ings dur­ing the sea­son and then have a num­ber of op­tions in the spring. It can be grazed off, cut for hay or let go to seed and har­vested.

“Off one 43-hectare pad­dock that was a se­cond-year hay crop, which is not rec­om­mended, we cut 340 six-foot bales, or about 160 tonnes (3.9 t/ha).

“That pad­dock had two early graz­ings and was sown late. It was a phe­nom­e­nal re­sult. It makes beau­ti­ful hay and be­ing an awn­less barley va­ri­ety is a dis­tinct ad­van­tage.”

Mr Mills said he also saw po­ten­tial in the other for­age ce­real va­ri­ety, Mam­moth oats, which he be­lieved could ex­tend the greed feed win­dow by about three weeks.

He said their live­stock pro­gram was to mate 3500 ewes each year in what was es­sen­tially a three-way split — be­tween a third su­perfine Meri­nos, Dohne rams put over re­ject su­perfine ewes and Poll Dorset rams put over their ewe prog­eny.

Their sheep num­bers vary, but av­er­age around 6500.

Ene­abba farmer Sam Mills in one of his fam­ily’s Dic­ta­tor 2 barley pad­docks in 2017. This for­age crop, sown at 55kg/ha in July, still pro­duced well de­spite the late break. The Mills fam­ily be­lieve Dic­ta­tor 2 barley de­liv­ers great graz­ing value, the op­tions of hay or grain, and it looks set to in­crease their live­stock pro­duc­tion.

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