WHEN you farm at Woorarra East in the hills behind Toora with a 1200mm annual rainfall, the 625mm annual rainfall of Yarram over the past ten years is comparatively dry.
For the Throckmorton family they affectionately refer to their recently purchased 150ha outblock south of Yarram as the Gobi Desert.
“The fortnight before we purchased it we applied 2&1 fertiliser, and it just went brown. It was nothing to do with the fertiliser, it was just a very dry season,” said dairy farmer Neil Throckmorton.
Purchased in September 2015, Mr Throckmorton said the property was “totally unimproved, tussocks, stunted growth and low fertility”.
“Our focus was to improve the property so we could grow a lot of feed to supplement the dairy farms.”
Preparing the property to renovate in April, the Yarram property underwent significant drainage to prevent water from pooling, and tussocks regrowing again.
They also planned a significant short term pasture program to maximise pasture yields.
“Working alongside Pete and Notman Seeds we decided to plant Bullet Annual Ryegrass mixed with Shaftal clover to give us flexibility for both grazing and silage.”
Planting of the Bullet and Shaftal at 40kg/ha began in April and the last paddocks were sown in the first week of June.
“We normally wouldn’t sow so late, but I’ve learnt a real lesson with the Bullet and Shaftal. As long as you can get on the ground and it’s not waterlogged, I wouldn’t be afraid to sow so late.
“The late sowing of was a real bonus, and although we got no winter grazing, the minute the pasture got heat on it the grass just took off.”
A wet winter in Yarram delayed the first silage cut, with some of the earlier sown paddocks grazed with young stock.
“We expected to cut in late August, however our first cut was in October and the second in November.”
Silage yields on the later sown paddocks were a great surprise to Neil.
“The yields of the later sown paddocks were heavier than the earlier planted paddocks.”
The outcome was a real success with over 4700 bales at 800kg baled at approximately 380kgDM per bale.
Visiting the property with South African agronomist Rocky Reynolds in November Peter Notman said the performance of the pasture was top notch and results spoke for itself.
“The leafiness of the Bullet was first class.”
Rocky said he was impressed with the cool season performance and especially the establishment of the June sown paddocks.
“It has shown to be a good fit to the South African dairy farms with the growth and leafiness surprising us,” Mr Reynolds said.
Reflecting on the first year of Gobi, Autumn planting and the silage outcome, Mr Throckmorton said he would probably stick with the Bullet and not add the Shaftal next time.
“If we had a drier year we could have harvested five to six weeks earlier with the last cut being in October and not November, but I still believe we could have achieve similar yields.”