ASHEEP Pasture Variety Trials Summary 2021
Updated: Feb 25
Article by India Warren-Hicks (South East Agronomy Research)
Meat & Livestock Australia Producer Demonstration Site
2020 saw the first year of the trials at three locations: Grass Patch, Salmon Gums and the Neridup Sandplain. The ASHEEP committee, key pasture agronomists and South East Agronomy Research decided the Salmon Gums trial would be relocated to Cascade. With the tough 2020 season in Salmon Gums and few farmers left working with sheep, it was agreed the trial would be more suitable in Cascade.
The sites for 2021 were in Grass Patch, Cascade, and the Sandplain. Prior to sowing soil cores were taken at the three sites. The trials were sown with a 1.8m single plot cone seeder with knife points and press wheels. The 2021 trials had a fantastic start getting up and away well with good soil moisture at sowing and decent rainfall following. It should be noted that all varieties in each trial were sown on the same date, with some species in particular the Vetch and Clovers generally requiring a late April sowing date. Take this into account when looking at the dry matter (kg/ha) results below.
The Ballard BALL SalinA mix includes Scimitar Burr Medic, Balansa Clover and Tetraploid Italian Ryegrass.
The Ballard BALL TearA mix includes Crimson Clover, Tetraploid Ryegrass, Pink Serradella, Bladder Clover and Gland Clover.
The Ballard BALL ThumpA mix includes Rose Clover, Bladder Clover, Soft Pink Serradella, Sub-clover and Tetraploid Italian Ryegrass
10 and 16 weeks after sowing, pasture cuts were taken of species that had established adequately. These cuts were dried, and the numbers converted to dry matter kg/ha. Dry matter (DM) is the portion of feed remaining once water has been removed. Dry matter contains the nutrients: energy, protein, fibre, minerals and starch.
Analysis on the 16 weeks after sowing cuts was conducted by CSIRO. Crude protein and dry matter digestibility were the two focus results for these trials. Crude protein includes both true protein and non-protein nitrogen which rumen microbes can convert to protein. Crude protein is simply the proteins the animal needs. It is calculated as follows; CP= Nitrogen x 6.25
Dry matter digestibility (DMD) is expressed as a percent. 100% DMD means all the feed has been digested. Any value of 70% or greater is considered good.
Throughout the season ASHEEP had two field walks with the winter field day to Cascade and the spring field day to the sandplain. Both days had a great turnout allowing for robust discussion and interest to continue pasture research in Esperance in 2022.
The sandplain site is typical of the non-wetting deep sands in the high rainfall zone. It has low N, P and K from the surface down to depth. The trial was sown into good moisture, and majority of the varieties established well. The three Lucerne species, Casbah Biserulla and Dalkeith Sub clover were slow to establish and put on minimal biomass throughout the season. By the final pasture cuts at 16 weeks the same trend as at 10 weeks is recorded. The standout variety being Planet Barley with 7250kg/ha of dry matter closely followed by the Express Oats and Tetila Ryegrass combination at 6750kg/ha. The cereals at this trial site were outstanding. The Capello and RM4 vetch was putting on biomass well but like the Leafmore Brassica was setback from broadleaf spray drift.
The Cascade trial site saw an excellent establishment of all varieties other than Casbah Biserulla. At 10 weeks after sowing pasture cuts were taken with growing season rainfall sitting at 250mm. The Spartacus Barley was the standout at this point in the trial with 1700kg/ha of dry matter. This was closely followed by RM4 Vetch at 1600kg/ha, and the mix of RM4 Vetch and Express Oats with 1500kg/ha of dry matter. The same trend follows into the 16WAS cuts with the standout being the mix of RM4 Vetch and Oats and Oats standalone both at 5100kg/ha of DM. This is closely followed by RM4 Vetch with 4900 kg/ha of DM. The Sparticus Barley and Tetila Ryegrass were also noteworthy putting on good biomass and subsequent dry matter at this later point in the season.
The Grass Patch trial was sown into a sandy loam over clay soil type. The site has good nutrition and soil structure from surface down to depth. All species established well and put on good biomass other than Sulla, which dry matter cuts could not be taken. Unfortunately, as the season progressed by September the site had started to dry out and species were dying off. The standout variety from this trial at 16 WAS cuts being Express Oats with 8900 kg/ha DM. This was followed by Tillage Radish at 5000 kg/ha DM.