The benefits of cultivating RAGT Hustle AR1 perennial ryegrass paddocks in temperate regions

They’re cultivating more than delicious food way down on the south-east coast of what many of us used to call the ‘apple isle’. It won’t be long before it’s known as the ‘cheese and milk isle’ if the team at the Stroud Dairy and their artisan dairy produce brand ‘Bream Creek Dairy’ have anything to do with it.

Recently, members from RAGTs senior team took a film crew down to the picturesque paddocks of this dairy located by the sea to record a conversation with the farm’s Herd Manager Jack Bignell. Jack has changed the direction of the dairy with the help and foresight of his dad Charles and uncle Richard, along with his brother Doug and a herd of 800 super fit and healthy Friesian cows. Jack’s idea of shifting to a paddock to plate model has seen the dairy successful launch its own produce brand – Bream Creek Dairy. The operation now sells a wonderful selection of fresh farm milks and cheeses, including a stunning Triple Cream Truffle Brie. You can read all about their great story and history on their website, as well as buy a truckle of this amazing cheese to try yourself.

From an RAGT perspective, to see this dairy pivot and prosper off the expert and continued support of our RAGT Territory Business Manager David Gould and a local agronomist’s recommendations of utilising Hustle AR1 Perennial Ryegrass as the backbone of the herds on ground pasture feed system has been very satisfying.

For an in depth understanding on how RAGT’s Hustle AR1 has supported Jack’s herd and assisted in cultivating the dairies outstanding new produce range, watch the ‘Cultivating Conversation’ video above. Here you’ll meet Richard Prusa (RAGT Technical Product Development Manager – Forage) and learn how his love for ‘dirty chai lattes’ made with delicious Bream Creek Dairy ‘Cream-0n-Top’ full cream milk and helping cultivate highly productive pastures is driving life moments for everyday people to enjoy.

Cultivating improved paddock productivity with Lazuly, RAGT’s soft leaved cocksfoot

“If you didn’t know it was cocksfoot, you would probably think it wasn’t!”

Mark Palmer, RAGT Australia’s National Sales Manager and a former dairy farmer was not surprised when this statement popped out of Bream Creek Dairy’s pasture manager Doug Bignell’s mouth while they were filming a new RAGT Cultivating Conversation video. They were discussing a rising five year stand of RAGT’s Lazuly Oceanic Soft Leaved Cocksfoot that they were standing in, positioned next to the sea, on a property located alongside Marion Bay on the south-east coast of Tasmania, just forty-five minutes from Hobart. 

This is a commonly made assessment of this particular RAGT cocksfoot cultivar. It can look like a big annual ryegrass. Many a trained eye is use to seeing cocksfoot with a more narrow leaf and less prostrate habit. Mark and the team at RAGT put Lazuly’s more flowing appearance down to the genetics, where there was a strong focus on breeding and adding in improved palatability to what is a well know highly persistent variety. Watching a near 300 strong herd chew through it on the day did have everyone (film crew included) summarising these ladies must think they were brunching on a big annual rye tetraploid, based on the vigour they showed towards it! 

Confusing appearance chatter aside, the recorded video conversation that you can watch above between Mark and Doug centres around what is happening down in this beautiful part of the world. Doug, along with his brother Jack, their parents and uncle run Stroud Dairy, one of the most southern dairy farms in Australia. It’s home to a wonderful and relatively new brand of artisan dairy based products labeled Bream Creek Dairy. The milk produced on farm goes directly into making a delicious range of locally made cheeses and milks – all heavily focused on sustainability and paddock to plate practices. You can read all about this great enterprise and its history on their website, as well as buy a truckle of any of their amazing cheeses to try yourself.

From an RAGT perspective, to see this operation prosper in an environment where factors such as farm aspect, soil types and seasonal conditions can heavily effect paddock pasture productivity was a real eye opener. RAGT Territory Business Manager David Gould and a local agronomist have collaborated with each other and the team at the dairy over many seasons to trial, then implement recommendations like the use of Lazuly. Its introduction has achieve excellent year round feed supply options that have ensured the 800 strong Friesian herd can produce milk to the high specifications required to produce award winning cheeses and milks. 

For an in-depth understanding on how Lazuly, RAGTs Perennial Oceanic Soft Leaved Cocksfoot has supported Doug’s pasture system and helped cultivate the dairies outstanding new produce range, watch the ‘Cultivating Conversation’ video above. Here you’ll meet Mark Palmer (RAGT Australian National Sales Manager) and learn how his new found love of Bream Creek Dairy’s cheeses and cultivating better productivity in challenging pastures is driving the life moments everyday people enjoy, like a cracker topped with cheese.

Great forage potential and grazing tolerance a winner for Mark

Lucerne production is an industry that’s helping transform the farming landscape on many properties in southeast South Australia and for the Kinyerrie Partnership, it’s become all about growing top quality lucerne stands.

The Kinyerrie Partnership is a lucerne seed, premium hay and livestock operation. It extends across 2,200ha, 10km West of Keith and typically runs 2,000 terminal ewes that lamb in March. The enterprise produces lucerne pastures and hay, for both internal use and off-farm sales.

Kinyerrie Partnership Farm Manager, Mark Wilson (right) and Brodie Clark in a stand of SF 614 QL. Mark said he has been impressed by the overall persistence, quality, forage and high hay yields of this Seed Force variety. SF 614 QL is a dormancy 6, grazing tolerant lucerne.

Mark Wilson took over the farm manager role a few years ago and explains the property has a mix of irrigated and dry land lucerne, grown mostly on a sandy loam which suits lucerne production. Rainfall for their area averages about 475mm.

“We have 530ha under centre pivot, 70 ha under flood irrigation and we grow a range of different lucerne varieties,” Mark said.

“Our primary business is lucerne seed with value adding through hay and pasture. What we like to grow are multi-purpose varieties that are great for forage and hay production. There are some good ones out there like the Seed Force variety SF 614 QL

“614 started well before my time here. It has been grown on this property for about seven years. Over that time, it’s proven to be a really good forage variety, due to its multi-foliate trait.

“Great for its ability to bounce back after grazing, a lot of our non-irrigated pastures have been sown down to it. SF 614 QL responds well to grazing and comes back quickly.

“We also have a 37ha paddock, of which 30 ha is under centre pivot irrigation sown to it as well. It’s been a productive stand and lived on for a long time.

“How long the sheep go in there can depend on what we are doing at the time. For example, lambs might be in there for 3 or 4 weeks before we move them on to the next pivot. The ewes also get rotated in there for 3 to 4 week intervals.

“During late winter we had just over 400 fast growing prime lambs in there for about 4 weeks before I pulled them out. As part of our rotational management, we don’t let any paddocks get to the stage where they’re completely grazed out. We’ll feed hay as necessary, just to give the sheep a bit of extra roughage.

“SF 614 QL is a variety which produces a lot of fodder. When it is up to 15 to 20cm high and has plenty of leaf in amongst it, it’s time to graze.

“There’s plenty of bulk in the foliage because of the growth characteristics of the plant. The SF 614 QL has a high leaf to stem ratio.”

Mark said their lucerne paddocks normally receive 100kg/ha of single superphosphate and trace elements annually. The trace elements are generally applied through the boom.

Areas destined to have multiple hay cuts will also get a good rate of potash.

Centre pivot areas are generally cut for high quality hay and non-irrigated pasture paddocks are typically used for forage.

Everything gets winter cleaned with selective herbicides to remove unwanted, low value weeds.

“We are in touch with our agronomist regularly and keep an eye on it. If it looks like needing something, we get straight onto it,” Mark said.

Grazing tolerant lucerne has multi-purpose attributes

With properties at Robe, Naracoorte and Langkoop, Graham Johnson’s focus is clearly on pushing livestock production. Across his properties he runs ewes and lambs, cows and calves. There’s a lot of mouths to feed, reliant almost totally on rain-fed agriculture.  

Livestock Manager, Aaron Slorach, says SF 614 QL is a versatile, multi-purpose mixed farming systems lucerne. It has proven to him to have exceptional forage qualities, good stand persistence and fast recovery after grazing.

According to Graham’s Livestock Manager, Aaron Slorach, they grow a small amount of feed barley and some oats for hay just north of Naracoorte. Most paddocks are a mix of clover and annual ryegrass, with a spread of Phalaris across some. It’s all non-irrigated pasture, aside from two centre pivots at Naracoorte.

While the pivots cover just a small percentage of the Naracoorte block, they are enormously important when it comes producing in-season and out-of-season feed. Aaron said when you have the ability to manage pasture growth with irrigation, you really want to take production to the next level and make the most of the opportunity.

The two pivots were sown to Seed Force Lucerne variety SF 614 QL in 2021. Commercial seeding rates up to 25kg/ha were used and the intent was to make full use of this multi-purpose, dormancy 6 rated variety, for both forage and hay production.

With a close eye on management, the stand established exceptionally well and was ready to be cut for hay by October. Further cuts were made into early summer.

Aaron said as Livestock Manager, his interest has been on how SF 614 QL performs with gazing. He said both pivots have been stocked since the beginning of 2022.

“We had about 700 light lambs that needed to be finished off before they could be moved on, so in January they went onto the pivots and by mid-February they were moved off and sold.

“As soon as they came off, we watered for a couple of weeks. The 614 bounced back quickly, so we introduced 360 pregnant ewes in early March.

“We aim for an April/May lambing here. Those particular sheep were bought last year as scanned-in ewes and joined with lamb at foot, so the lambs didn’t drop until the middle of May.

“It’s been interesting to see how they’ve performed on the Seed Force variety. The weight gains I have seen on those lambs from the time they were born to when they were ready to leave the property, and how they looked, is as impressive as I’ve seen.

“By late winter the lucerne growth was powering away, way ahead of the ewes and lambs, so we took them off one of the pivots and put them all onto the other one for a stocking rate of  22 DSE.

“That enabled us to do a winter weed clean-up, to set-up the unoccupied pivot in preparation for hay production.

“Come early September, lambs on the SF 614 QL lucerne were probably 4kg heavier on carcass weight compared to lambs in the paddock next door. We’re targeting that 24kg plus weight range.

“Approaching four months, most were ready to sell. That’s remarkable considering they were actually 3 to 4 weeks younger compared to the rest of the lambs on the farm.

“It’s been as good a lamb growth as I have seen,” Aaron said.

With the season still progressing, he said as lambs on the pivot are sold, they would be replaced with lambs from other paddocks.

“As spring progresses and the weather gets warmer, it’s obviously going to grow a lot more feed and get further ahead of the sheep. So, we’ll have to manage it and increase the stocking rate accordingly.

“Ideally, we’d get enough on there to chew it down and be able to get in and do a spring weed clean-up in preparation for hay cutting.

“I’m really impressed with how much winter and spring forage it has produced, and how it bounces back,” Aaron said.