A few years ago, milk production on Mark Griffiths’ Dorrigo dairy was just touching 500,000L annually and yet today, he’s achieving over 800,000L. It’s thanks to a range of critical management decisions he’s taken to improve the production and utilisation of his pastures.
A sixty per cent increase is massive in anyone’s terms and Mark is convinced his milk production hasn’t peaked just yet. He said with the extra feed his pastures have grown he could have made use of another 20 to 30 milkers to better utilise feed. “Three years ago, there was no way I’d be able to feed 180 cows in autumn, we just didn’t have the feed,” he said. The results have come from a range of improvements. Test results for ‘Greener Pastures’ indicated pasture growth would improve with higher fertiliser rates and by using products with superior sulphur content.
With an average of 2500mm annually, his land was underperforming relative to rainfall. Liming at rates of 5t/ha has addressed soil pH issues and made nutrients he has applied to the soil more readily available. More extensive fencing has concentrated cows into more numerous and smaller paddocks, and this has improved grazing rotation options and pasture utilisation. With all these factors coming together, Mark said sowing superior pasture varieties has become a vital lynchpin, making use of the improved growing conditions and management options.
Commander Chicory’s upright nature and high palatability means livestock prefer grazing it, so persistence and top performance is maximised under a well fertilised, rotational grazing systems like Mark Griffiths’ dairy program. This season, Mark is planning to sow Commander with Tempo and Aston ryegrass for their superior yield.
“We tried Commander Plus last year and straight Commander chicory the year before. The cows absolutely love it and it’s highly palatability. They milk very well off it. “The Commander chicory has a very long tap root and even through we’ve had periods of virtually no rain for up to three months, it just persists and recovers. Its highly productive,” he said.
Commander Plus is an exclusive mix from Norco Rural Agri containing Commander chicory, Barberia and Hulk ryegrass and Storm white clover. Planted on its own, Commander chicory can be used as a summer forage crop, however it also makes the perfect partner in many areas of NSW with ryegrass and clover. Its upright nature and high palatability means livestock prefer grazing chicory, so persistence and top performance is maximised under a well fertilised, rotational grazing systems like Mark’s dairy program. The very high feed value of chicory is linked to its low structural fibre and increased levels of non-structural carbohydrates, soluble sugars and soluble fibre, which results in increased dry matter intake. Along with the benefits of increased feed quality and growth, chicory has elevated mineral content (Ca, Mg, Zn, Cu, Fe and S) in comparison to ryegrass, which complements good animal health.
The ryegrass in the mix enables pastures to recover quickly after grazing and Storm white clover is a mid-maturity clover with high production in winter and summer. It’s quick to establish and grows into a tall plant that persists with grazing and remains dense.
Mark said in his situation kikuyu is an ongoing threat and he over-sows any paddocks where plant numbers have thinned. He said he is now at the point where roughly every three years, his paddocks are completely renovated. The sowing rate for Commander Plus is 30kg/ha and sown just deep enough to cover the seed.