Words supplied by Craig Rodgers, Ruralco Group Manager On-Farm Sales.
Spring has once again delivered a variety of weather conditions after a warmer than usual August and early September period. October and November had mixed weather throughout the month. Soil temperature struggled to come up with inconsistent sunshine hours meaning crops and pasture in this period were slow to establish. Soil conditions did however remain favourable meaning minimal setbacks to sow crops and there seemed to be less pressure on contractors. We have also seen regular rainfall which has meant moisture levels have remained good even on the back of some warmer days.
The regular rainfall has meant water reserves do seem to be ok at this early stage. The days are becoming longer and the increase in sunshine hours will give us an indication very quickly as to reserves available through the early summer, it becomes very important to regularly check moisture levels in the soil.
Pasture growth was slow in early spring as soil temperatures struggled to consistently get above 12 degrees. A couple of late frosts in mid-November put a check on some crops and the lack of a spring flush this year have meant minimal excess feed across most areas and a delay to the silage season. Earlier sown new pasture paddocks struggled to establish and compete with weeds and early weed sprays were slow to reach full effect due to these lower soil temperatures. Regular rainfall is helping establishment with this set to continue following the recent rains.
Once again variety selection has been a good discussion point and for future pasture renewal monitoring performance over the summer period should give an indication of what suits your farming set up whether in a sheep, beef, deer, or dairy situation. Following some wetter periods through winter pastures have been damaged stimulating an increase in renovator type pasture mixes as Farmers look to patch up damage. There has also been demand for Italian type over-sowing as they look extend pastures through the next couple of years. There are some new varieties into the market this year and early trial results are indicating improved performance and tonnages. While most grasses are bred to produce good yields in suitable conditions it has become obvious that not all grasses suit all farmers or the management style you may have on yours. Every farm is different, especially seasonally and demand and management should be what you discuss when looking at options for re-grassing. It takes 12 months to establish a new pasture and good management through this period will improve persistence, especially through the first summer.
The most important grazing is the first one and should occur once plants cannot be pulled out of the ground, this helps tillering and growth, and enables light to reach clover that can often establish slower in spring sown pasture. Always keep pastures relatively short (less than 3500kg/DM) which helps them tiller but try not to graze them too low reducing leaf and stem material affecting re-growth and plant reserves.
With such rapid growing conditions currently, we are seeing rapid establishment of weeds in all types of crops and new pasture. Due to the warmer soil temperatures in late November, they have become very aggressive giving unwanted competition to these crops. Regular monitoring and spraying of any competition in pasture and crops gives it the best possible chance to establish and reach yield potential at a later date, these applications of chemicals should go on at the earliest possible dates, as larger weeds become harder to kill and control. It is also a good time of year to tidy up fence lines, laneways and yard areas, problem weeds will start seeding through this period spreading viable seeds across pasture and cropping areas.
Cereals and Grain
Grain crops have established well and there has been limited disease pressure to date, but this can change very quickly through December so monitor regularly and a prevention spray can often be more practical than fighting a disease outbreak. Cereal crops look very even this year and while very slow through the late winter period have had accelerated growth through November. Some cereal crops that are going to be taken for silage are looking very good and just need some good sunshine hours to help with the seed fill stage.
Grain pricing has been strong throughout the entire spring period and should remain through to the harvest period. There seems to be little excess grain available in the market however earlier contract grain has not all been uplifted and once shifted some end of lines may become available in the market as Farmers look to clear silos and storage areas pre-harvest. At this time of year, it is always good to check storage facilities for leaks, we have seen an upswing in contaminated silos and storage areas due to moisture which has brought on pest infestations and mouldy and musty grain which has seen some loads turned around at destination. This is often a hard job to organise and puts a lot of pressure on freight companies, grain reps and end users, and especially tough for the cropping farmer who do not like to see grain returning to farm due to contamination.
Once again, we have seen an increase in kale sowings with at time of writing some varieties already sold out. While Fodder Beet has been popular over the last few years due to increased yields over smaller areas, it has been great to see an increase in discussion on kale, and the flexibility it brings to your farming set up including ease of feeding. The increase in yields over the last few years has been impressive especially given the minimal inputs. Establishment has become easier with the increase in farmers using coated seed for insect protection and the use of pre-emerge weed sprays. We are also seeing a wider range of sowing dates from early October to mid – January and all producing similar yields come the winter, and some good yields also across dryland crops. The ease of management through the growing season and at grazing time has initiated a spike in sales over the last few years.
Early sown fodder beet crops were very slow establishing this year and have endured weed pressure due to the lower soil temperature in early spring. We have seen good establishment of later sown crops; however, it is noticeable with a couple of cold weather snaps that a reduction in soil temperature of only a couple of degrees does slow the growth of fodder beet. This allows future weed strikes once the temperatures warm again and with the warmer soil temperatures we have seen some aggressive weed growth. A good weed spray programme remains important, and very important not to wait too long for your next weed spray application. A delay of 2 or 3 days can make larger weeds that little bit harder to kill and while this puts extra pressure on contractors and spray trucks, look to book them that little bit earlier and work in closely with your local Ruralco representative or crop specialist.
There has been less discussion this year around varieties than in previous years. Another reduction in available options has helped and the inconsistency of trial data and feed competitions and the upcoming environment changes relating to winter grazing has left most farmers unsure on what is exactly the right cultivar for their farm. If you are not getting a suitable yield or the variety you are growing is not quite fitting your demand, then discuss this with your local rep or advisor. There are plenty of options available now and a small change in cultivar which could relate to dry matter potential, % of bulb out of the ground or even growing and grazing characteristics could help your farming set up.