RON and Gwen Gray, Casino, have navigated a tricky autumn planting season to come up trumps with their high-protein winter pasture.
In stark contrast to surrounding native paddocks the Gray’s disc planted winter rye glows a vibrant green, highlighting his herd of Angus breeders and calves.
The colour confounds the casual observer who assumes so much nitrogen was used to get the result, but Mr Gray says there was no fertiliser applied this year at all, only sulphur which his agronomist advised becausew of his heavy clay soils. The ingredient has obviously helped to unlock a host of useful nutrients.
Of course rainfall and its timing allowed the project to sprout in the first instance.
“Everything fell into play the first week in April when I planted,” Mr Gray explained. “I plough then run a land plane over the ground before planting with a disc. Its an old method but it works for me on this heavy soil.
“A week later we had 19mm. It was a fantastic season until early June.”
The 150mm that came in that winter flood event put some of his country under water and when another 40mm fell a fortnight later his system went into a cold dormancy.
“I was lucky to get the summer setaria grazed off,” he said.
Mr Gray, a fifth generation family member living on Horseshoe Lagoon, has divided his 60ha into 14 paddocks, designed so he can rotate his 50 breeders on different feed throughout the year.
There is summer setaria and kikuyu, along with planted millet and lab lab. Come winter there’s rye.
His predominantly Angus female line descends from his father Doug’s herd, which originally incorporated Hereford after the demise of dairy.
Along the way were smatterings of Murray Gray and Droughtmaster – the odd red cow gives a visual reference to that presence – and Angus, of course.
Lately Mr Gray has put Medlyn Angus bulls over his breeders and he is pleased with the result, turning off weaner steers at eight months, giving his cows four months recovery before calving.
If there’s something he would change it is the nature of his calving, which is spread too far apart to take advantage of cost savings when it comes time to vaccinate young animals.
“I sell them straight off the cow at around 200-210kg. I keep six to eight heifers every year and sell the rest.
“These days there’s a $100 difference between an Angus weaner and some other breed,” he says.