North East farm­ers urged to make the most of what they’ve got

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - FRONT PAGE -

Some farm­ers across the North East and Goul­burn Mur­ray Farmer re­gion have been spared the crip­pling drought con­di­tions ef­fect­ing much of the coun­try – and, if rains fall this month, may yet be able to bale qual­ity hay. Dr Matt Ma­honey, pres­i­dent of the Grass­lands So­ci­ety of South­ern Aus­tralia, agron­omy spe­cial­ist and owner of Agridome Con­sul­tancy, re­cently spoke at the Val­ley Seeds Open Day – urg­ing lo­cal pro­duc­ers to make the most of the sea­son.

DROUGHT is af­fect­ing many Aus­tralian farm­ers.

From Queens­land all the way down to Gipp­s­land, the lack of rain is be­ing felt across many re­gions and in­dus­tries, with some farm com­mod­ity prices en­ter­ing record lev­els and qual­ity feed sup­ply be­com­ing scarce.

Farm­ers in the North East of Vic­to­ria have been rel­a­tively pro­tected from the se­vere drought con­di­tions felt in other ar­eas of Aus­tralia.

Win­ter and spring rain re­ceived to date in the area has been ideal to kick-start pas­ture growth, but de­spite this, feed is still lim­ited in many pad­docks through­out the re­gion.

Val­ley Seeds is a whole­sale pas­ture seed com­pany, based at Yarck.

Last month, Dr Matt Ma­honey, pres­i­dent of the Grass­lands So­ci­ety of South- ern Aus­tralia, agron­omy spe­cial­ist and owner of Agridome Con­sul­tancy, was in­vited to be on the guest panel as part of the Val­ley Seeds Open Day.

Dr Ma­honey spoke about how to max­imise pas­ture growth; and how best to cap­i­talise on the cur­rent sea­sonal con­di­tions be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced.

“Spring is upon us, and that means pas­ture growth will be in­creas­ing sig­nif­i­cantly as soil tem­per­a­ture be­gins to rise,” he said.

“Pas­ture growth will vary be­tween re­gions de­pend­ing on soil mois­ture lev­els; soil mois­ture will most likely be the lim­it­ing fac­tor, while pas­ture species, soil fer­til­ity, in­sects, weeds and graz­ing man­age­ment should be care­fully con­sid­ered to en­sure these are not what is lim­it­ing pas­ture pro­duc­tion.”

Dr Ma­honey said that al- though cli­mate mod­els are pre­dict­ing a dryer than av­er­age spring, there was still po­ten­tial to grow de­cent amounts of pas­ture given the cur­rent soil mois­ture lev­els - and if an­other timely drop of rain is re­ceived.

“There may also be good op­por­tu­ni­ties to be had in terms of fin­ish­ing off lambs, or tak­ing on ex­tra cat­tle at the right price if we grow qual­ity pas­ture now,” he said.

While some parts of Aus­tralia are suf­fer­ing with ter­ri­ble drought con­di­tions, Dr Ma­honey said it was im­por­tant to pro­duce as much high qual­ity farm grown dry mat­ter as pos­si­ble while the con­di­tions al­low - and util­is­ing it shouldn’t be a prob­lem.

“It’s im­por­tant to ad­dress any weed and pest is­sues early, and feed pas­tures op­ti­mally with the guide of a soil test as this will en­able grow­ing the ex­tra feed to meet live­stock re­quire­ments, re­plen­ish silage or hay sup­plies, or to sell,” Dr Ma­honey said.

“At the very least, we need to be avoid­ing grow­ing weeds this spring.”

Jo Tan­ner, na­tional sales and mar­ket­ing man­ager for Val­ley Seeds, said it was about safe­guard­ing hay crops to get max­i­mum nu­tri­ent value.

“Farm­ers need to make sure they are go­ing to cut the best qual­ity hay they can; that means tak­ing care of in­sects and fer­til­is­ing; get­ting on top of ev­ery­thing now and not cut­ting too late in the veg­e­ta­tive stage,” she said.

“Parts of North East Vic­to­ria are hold­ing up bet­ter than other parts of the state.”

Mrs Tan­ner said it was a mat­ter of mak­ing sure pad­docks pro­duced as much as pos­si­ble.

“There will be hay around, but farm­ers should be aim­ing for qual­ity as well, and not just chas­ing quan­tity,” she said.

“There is lit­tle stored hay – there are a lot of ce­re­als be­ing cut, which is great for fill­ing an­i­mals, but if you are want­ing some­thing that has more nu­tri­tive value, then you re­ally need to look at grow­ing that on farm clover rye blend.”

For those that are plan­ning a fod­der crop, Mrs Tan­ner rec­om­mended a deep rooted bras­sica as a quick grow­ing sum­mer feed op­tion, or an Ital­ian rye grass like Amass in high rain­fall ar­eas.

“Mil­let has pre­vi­ously been a sta­ple, but this year it’s be­come quite ex­pen­sive, so con­sider this and as­sess the op­tions,” she said.

De­spite the al­most av­er­age sea­son in the Yarck – Mans­field - Alpine ar­eas, Mrs Tan­ner said it was still likely to be a long sum­mer.

“Farm­ers need to weigh up what they’ve got, and what they’re pre­pared to do,” she said.

The best ad­vice can al­ways be found by seek­ing a lo­cal agron­o­mist, seed com­pany or other agri­cul­tural ex­pert to help un­der­stand a full range of op­tions.

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