BELL River Hay’s river flat paddocks are a “forage factory” for the Horton family at “Knightsbrook”, Wellington.
Currently, Michael Horton with his father Ian, and their families are preparing for the coming spring, which by all accounts should be a bonanza after heaps of winter rain.
“The Bell River has flooded us twice so far this month, but it’s all good, bar a bit of re-fencing, as our paddocks have full moisture profiles and the aquifer is being replenished,” Mr Horton said.
The family are professional lucerne and oaten hay growers providing produce to many areas of the state.
As well, they trade 80 to 100 steers and buy-in upwards of 1200 lambs of Poll Dorset crosses and also straight Merino to finish on the lush lucerne and oats crops.
But their main business is lucerne production and Michael Horton said he had moved to growing Haymaster 7 because of its finer stalk and extra foliage.
“We found previous winter active lucernes got too stalky and rank the later they got in the rotations,” he said.
PGG Wrightson Seeds’ Haymaster 7 variety is a winter active, high quality and high yielding lucerne ideally suited to premium hay making.
“I’ve found it makes a finer hay and seems to be a lot better than other varieties we’ve used and are currently cutting for other growers”
At present the Hortons are growing 54 hectares with another 12ha planned to sow when the ground is ready.
Sowing is at 20 kilograms of seed per hectare with 150kg/ha of single super five to eight centimetres underneath.
They use a combine with a small seed box which broadcasts seed then tickled into the top soil followed by rollers.
“The paddocks would be top-dressed with sulphate of potash next August to maintain the sulphur, and potassium levels,” Mr Horton said.
The last of the lambs will be moved off the crop mid-to-late August and then the paddock is cut for silage in early September.
“The paddocks are ‘spring cleaned’ with Sprayseed, atrazine and diuron and the first hay cut is at the end of October,” he said.
Paddocks with travelling irrigators produce cuts every four to five weeks.
“But the other blocks are sub-surface drip, so we can get water onto them a lot more consistently and evenly resulting in a cut every three to four weeks.”
Mr Horton said he aimed to make 110 small bales per hectare.
“That works out at 2.5 to 3 tonne per ha per cut and we aim for five to six cuts of lucerne and a cut of silage a year.”