With the dry and hot months still upon us, some of us are considering the fastest way to grow winter feed to displace high supplementary feeding regimes, when the break finally arrives.  There are many options for re-sowing quick winter feed which all have their advantages depending on the timing of the break (i.e. oats, forage ryecorn, barley, short term ryegrasses (annual and/or Italian), brassica’s such as rape or leafy-turnips etc.  Although given the many variables – this is a discussion for another day!

If you already sow or are considering sowing annual ryegrass for quick winter feed, initial time and rate of sowing experiments using annual ryegrass showed that timing is critical.  A general trend found that for every two week delay (following the autumn break) it can cost an operation around 2,000 kg dry matter (DM).  Furthermore, an extra 10 kg of seed can produce up to an extra 500 or 1,000 kg DM. Subsequent analysis by Harmer et al. (2012) placed some economics around these field experiments and used a marginal cost analysis to determine optimal annual ryegrass sowing rates.

Replicated field trials in western Victoria demonstrated that annual ryegrass early season growth rates are dependent on sowing rate, facing a decreasing marginal return (kg DM yield/kg seed) as sowing rates increase. Due to the diminishing marginal return (just like fertiliser inputs), marginal cost analysis is an economically rational tool to make sowing rate decisions. The authors demonstrated that depending on substitute feed cost (i.e. displacing oats, barley, hay etc.), further profits can be captured by increasing sowing rates of annual ryegrass. Given the current situation with the high cost of feed supplements (grain, hay etc.), the gains that can be captured here may have significant results in regards to profit, or savings on feed inputs.

For further information – please download the Marginal cost analysis to determine optimal annual ryegrass sowing rates paper.

For help in deciding which quick winter feed best suits your farming system call Meridian on 03 5341 6100 to discuss options or arrange an advisor visit.

Ryegrass picture

Article by James Sewell