Justin Riddell - L91 Lucerne
A range of different varieties and dormancies are being used to successfully cut hay and silage on the “Glen Goulburn” property at Coomboona, in the Goulburn Valley of Victoria. Justin Riddell said they used different types of lucerne in their hay making enterprise and included the more winter active varieties of L91 and Q75. He said the L91 variety was particularly useful in their heavier country because it had high resistance to root diseases. “Disease resistance is very important,” he said. The use of the winter active varieties in the mix provides opportunities to harvest lucerne later into autumn and help produce seven solid cuts per season. In a normal season the first and last cuts of the year are taken as silage, with the five cuts in the middle harvested as hay.
Mr Riddell said forage harvested from the lucerne was used on-farm in the dairy or sold to domestic markets in large square bales. Quality is a key to the production of lucerne and regular tests evaluate the factors that determine both high protein and high yields. While the general rule of thumb has been to cut early to keep the protein in the leaf, more recent trials have demonstrated the ability of these varieties to hang onto their leaf and protein further into the season. Mr Riddell said a quality test taken from lucerne cut at 20 per cent flower had the protein level at 22 per cent in a very good result. The 2012/2013 summer season on the property was generally very favourable for hay making with very little rain falling through until autumn. This meant the lucerne quality produced throughout the season was of a very high standard and the yields were also consistently good. One cut in early January produced an average yield of 1.8 tonnes per hectare and the aim is to consistently reach that mark every cut to ensure high returns across the season. Lucerne hay or silage is used on a daily basis in the dairy as the main source of protein and is supplemented with grain or corn silage to balance the diet. Some 550 acres of lucerne is grown on the property and the plan is to increase the area to between 1200 and 1400 acres into the future. Production from the additional areas of lucerne will be sold to a range of domestic markets.Justin Riddell, Coomboona, in the Goulburn Valley of Victoria
Harry Rowling - L91 Lucerne
A stand of L91 lucerne has continued to survive in very tough conditions on the property of Harry Rowling, at Ungarie, in the Riverina region of New South Wales. Mr Rowling said he sowed lucerne under oats and feed wheat in the final crops of the season last winter and is surprised at how well it has gone in a year with very little rainfall. “It needs a drink badly but it is still there,” he said. The ability of the lucerne to survive under adverse conditions was demonstrated with very little rainfall falling from March through until the end of February. An estimated five inches of rainfall was all that was received during that time.
The paddock of oats and lucerne was grazed through until late in the season and the wheat and lucerne area was harvested for grain at the end of 2012. Lucerne had been planted at a rate of 2 kilograms per hectare with the cereal rates also reduced and sown into ten inch row spacings through a Flexi boot from a separate box. Mr Rowling said it was his intention to put lucerne in each year and felt the L91 winter active variety had a good fit on the property. He said the winter activity provided more growth through the autumn months and would perform well if the traditional break came early. Lambing on the property is conducted in April so a good stand of L91 had the potential to be used to lamb down on and provide valuable feed at that time of year. Summer time is the main feed gap period of the year and sheep were being hand fed during the warmer months over 2012 and 2013. The introduction of areas of lucerne into the rotation will provide opportunities to take advantage of summer storms that could normally be expected. Lucerne responds quickly to rain and could be grazed by sheep shortly after the rainfall event. Mr Rowling said he would consider planting the lucerne by itself, and not as an under-sown crop, this season after seeing good results from this technique. He said a neighbour had good success establishing lucerne without the competition from the cereal crop and it could be a good option going forward. This season he is also looking at introducing Moby forage barley into the mix as a grazing option early in the season and through the cooler months and then into spring.Harry Rowling, at Ungarie, in the Riverina region of New South Wales
New L91 Lucerne variety ticking all the boxes - L91 Lucerne
A new lucerne variety has ticked all the boxes for dairy farmer Graeme Osbourne of Tatura, in the Goulburn Valley, after being planted earlier in 2009. Mr Osbourne said they put in a paddock of the new winter active Goldstrike L91 lucerne at the end of July and he was really impressed with the growth in its first year of production. “I think they have a real winner with this one,” he said. “They are getting the leaf, the small stems and the regrowth. I think this is nearly perfect.” The crop received good rainfall in the months after planting and was only watered once over the first four month period. By the start of December it was approximately 75cm in height although the wet weather in the weeks prior had delayed the first cut. “The L91 lucerne was very thick at ground level and its growth has been dramatic,” Mr Osbourne said.
He said the lucerne would be used primarily to produce small square bales and be sold to horse markets. “The response from people driving along the road (where the lucerne is) has been amazing. It’s a green oasis in the desert. It just looks so good.” While some of the L91 lucerne will be used on-farm, the intention long-term is to turn the forage into chaff and put it into bags. “We have had a lot of enquiries,” Mr Osbourne said. “L91 should fit the job well. Looking at the plant in the paddock there are a mass of soft leaf and little stems - it looks perfect for horses.” Paddocks of the winter active Q75 and semi-winter dormant L56 were also planted on the property at the same time as the L91. Mr Osbourne said the different winter activities made it easier to manage over the summer as they would be ready to cut in rotations. “We can have a range of feed where everything is coming one after the other,” he said. The L91 was sown into a well-prepared paddock that had previously been a night paddock for the dairy cows. “After a good long preparation there was hardly a weed in the paddock,” Mr Osbourne said. “There was a lot of manure and broken down matter and all we needed to add was a bit of potassium and super.” He said lucerne was an excellent crop to grow and the cows milked well on both hay and silage harvested from the forage. While hay is the main option taken from the lucerne paddocks, silage will also be considered coming out of the cooler months if the weather is a bit uncertain. Mr Osbourne said lucerne was an excellent forage with the quality feed producing good results in the milking herd. “I think lucerne is the only crop farmers should grow.” He said it was also a good dryland option with paddocks that look totally bare, shooting away rapidly after rainfall.Graham Osbourne of Tatura, Goulburn Valley, Victoria
L91 winter activity used for autumn lambing - L91 Lucerne
The winter activity of L91 lucerne has led to its use for autumn lambing on the property of Phil Reading at Wallaloo in the Wimmera district of Victoria. Mr Reading introduces the pregnant ewes to the lucerne paddock two weeks prior to lambing to get them used to the feed. The lambs are generally born from April onwards with the high winter activity of the L91 lucerne providing excellent feed through the cooler months and into spring. Mr Reading said they had switched from feeding the lambs in containment areas to using the lucerne paddock to finish the stock ready for market. "It is like having extra paddocks on the farm,” he said. The lucerne was also able to take advantage of the wet summer conditions of late 2010 and early 2011. It responded well to the rain and produced a bulk of feed which was utilised by the stock.Phil Reading, Wallaloo, Victoria
L91-based pasture fattens lambs at West Wyalong - L91 Lucerne
A permanent pasture based on L91 lucerne provided ideal spring feed for 620 cross bred lambs on the "Hilltop" property of Alan Payne of Central West New South Wales. Mr Payne planted L91 lucerne at a rate of 2 kilograms per hectare with Enduro balansa clover (0.8 kilograms per hectare), Silver Snail medic (1.2 kilograms per hectare) and Dalsa sub clover (1 kilogram per hectare). The pasture mix was sown in mid-June 2010, with the Merino / White Suffolk lambs first grazing the 65 hectare area in late September. The majority were later sold at $130 per head with the residual fetching $198 per head later in the season. “With return on investment with pasture establishment there is good money in it. At an establishment cost of $90 per hectare it is not much to recoup over each year,” Mr Payne said. “I like the winter activity - there is hardly a dormancy period. It will utilise the moisture and there is no weed burden.”Alan Payne, West Wyalong NSW
L91-based pasture mix performs - L91 Lucerne
A pasture mix based on the winter-active L91 lucerne has performed particularly well on the property of Tim and Rachel Westblade at Lockhart in New South Wales. The mix, which consisted of L91 lucerne, Enduro balansa clover, Cavalier spineless burr medic and a sub-clover was planted in mid-September. Mr Westblade said they had originally intended to plant the mix after cropping in autumn but were unable to get onto the wet paddocks until spring. The pasture mix was sown to 280 hectares in a range of different paddocks and germinated very well to set up a long-term pasture paddock. Approximately 160 hectares of the area was cut for hay with the remainder grazed a few times over the summer months. Mr Westblade said the mix was chosen with the winter-active L91 lucerne to fill a feed gap that traditionally occurs from March through to May. “At that time of year the winter active varieties continue on and we can lock up the paddocks and lamb down on them.Tim Westblade, Lockhart NSW