Independent evaluation of pasture performance in WA

By Rick Bayne

A NEW WA research initiative that has local science skills embedded in the suite of Western Dairy services is providing real-time and independent pasture variety analysis.

“The objective of having a pasture variety trial in WA dairy regions is to give producers greater confidence in their decision making, backed by independent science and analysis,” said Western Dairy scientist Dr Peter Hutton.

Using four replicates of six pasture varieties that are representative of those current sold in WA, Western Dairy undertook five harvests for the season and analysed each for both yield and quality.

“Where there is a statistically valid difference between varieties, in a given season and in a given soil type, we can help identify what is the most profitable variety for a particular farm system,” Dr Hutton said.

“We have gone out and purchased the seed from commercial re-sellers to ensure total impartiality.”

Six varieties of rye-grass were tested this season on a run-off dairy block at Boyanup: Catapult, Maximus, Wicher, Abundant, Ascend and OreTet.

The first year of analysis indicated that on this site and this season, OreTet had the highest yield and energy.

Dr Hutton said the initial trial was on relatively infertile soil and results could differ on highly fertile land with better moisture holding capacity.

“It is vital to appreciate that the varieties that performed well in this trial may not be ones you’d pick for your own situation,” he said.

“As we keep going with the trials we can build up the library of information on pasture yields and to address relevant issues such as good grazing management; fertiliser and lime application strategies; and pesticide and herbicide applications.”

Dr Hutton said farmers and seed companies wanted this sort of independent information.

“Farmers can get better informed on the performance on modern rye-grass varieties and know what varieties will suit specific situations,” he said.

“It will help them to know their system and be able to ask the right questions when they go to buy seed and importantly understand that there is the potential for significant difference in the profitability of some rye-grasses.”

Rye-grass pasture is the most important part of the feed base on WA dairy farms.