WHEN a grazing wheat crop can return a $1265 a hectare from three grazings it’s no wonder mixed enterprise farmers are turning to dual-purpose cropping.
The Johnstone family’s Illinois Farms, Woodstock, produced that result with Kittyhawk grazing wheat in a 28ha paddock to win the Cowra Show Society competition which lifted the crop to a finalist in the 2018 Suncorp Bank/Agricultural Societies Council Dryland Field Wheat competition.
Operated by Peter Johnstone and his two sons, Tom and Ben, the cropping enterprise runs alongside a 200 Angus breeder herd of Hazeldean blood and 1000 ewe flock of Aussie White sheep on five properties in the Woodstock and Cowra region.
“We’ve got a finger in every pie,” Tom Johnstone said.
And this year, while things were on a “knife’s edge”, they were fortunate to receive vital in-crop rains in May, June, July and August to allow growth and extra grazing time.
“We’ve been on a knife’s-edge all year, but got enough rain at the right time to make so much difference this year.”
They put 96 Angus heifers into the 28ha crop for 15 days to “knock it down” gaining 1kg/day with 55 sent to feedlot on August 16 averaging 394kg, gaining on average 2,8kg/day.
“We pulled them out and put in 900 lambs grazing for 42 days with an average 200 gram/day weight increase,” Mr Johnstone said.
“Of these 300 went to market and the remaining 600 stayed for an extra 18 days.”
Mr Johnstone said went to Tamworth and Goulburn for export or slaughtered locally at Cowra for the domestic trade.
The cattle returned $144/ha on average while the lambs grossed $1121/ha.
Mr Johnstone said that he expected an even bigger return from the paddock when grain was harvested, plus the paddock was contracted to cut and bale straw cereal hay.
While rotations work on a five year grazing followed by five cropping years the Johnstones also rely on pulse crops to break cycles and add extra nitrogen.
The Kittyhawk crop followed canola last year and faba beans are planned for next year.
Mr Johnstone said that apart from good in-crop rain at the right intervals the program stuck to plan.
“We try to do everything right and not cut corners,” he said. “And try to use as much technology that’s available to us.
“By good rotations and being vigilant on weeds is most important, otherwise we’ll get too many weeds which will spoil our grazing phase due to ryegrass emergence.”
August rain and urea gave post graze boost
Forty millimetres of rain in August followed by a spread of 100 kilograms per hectare of urea gave the required boost to a Kittyhawk crop which won the Cowra Show Society wheat competition this year.
Peter Johnstone and sons Tom and Ben run a mixed farming enterprise of beef and prime lamb production on their aggregation based on Illinoi, Woodstock, and their cropping programs are based mainly for grazing.
Tom Johnstone said they had been growing grazing crops for many years, but a lot of that acreage was made up of grazing on feed-quality wheats.
“We went away from Wedgetail some years ago to feed wheat varieties like Manning, but you can’t enter these crops in the field wheat competition, so we have added Kittyhawk to the mix,” he said.
“Manning has been very good as we can sow in February and get more grazing out of it and get the same sort of yield as Kittyhawk and wedgetail except it’s feed wheat.”
The 28ha paddock on Illinoi was sown in 25 centimetre spacings on Anzac Day at 80kg/ha with 90kg/ha of mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP) Impact and Big N nitrogen at 65kg/ha.
This followed a fallow rainfall from January to sowing of 67mm with most falling in February totalling 50m.
Three herbicide sprays were performed with the first being a fallow knockdown on March 19 followed by a pre-sowing post-emergent on April 24. A broadleaf cover was applied on August 30 following 40mm.
In-crop rain tallied 261mm to the end of November.
Tom Johnstone does much of the agronomy with background assistance from Peter Watt, Elders and Mitch Small of Emerge Ag.
The paddock’s wheat crop followed canola with faba beans planned for next year.