Brassica mix gets a tick for rotational grazing

Brassica mix gets a tick for rotational grazing

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Ben Thorpe of Molly Downs Farms at Glen Innes with the brassica mix he under-sowed to form part of his rotational grazing system for his White Suffolk ewes. Photo: Supplied

Ben Thorpe of Molly Downs Farms at Glen Innes with the brassica mix he under-sowed to form part of his rotational grazing system for his White Suffolk ewes. Photo: Supplied

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Rotational grazing in a 'pie graph' design.

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Ben Thorpe of Molly Downs Farms at Glen Innes says Winfred forage brassica has been a great fit for his new rotational grazing system.

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Mr Thorpe runs White Suffolk ewes at his Glen Innes property and said he began rotational grazing in order to build a more sustainable winter feed regime so he didn't have to hand-feed during dry periods.

"I do holistic grazing management - I have a set of yards basically in the centre of the place and I move all my sheep through the yards into a different paddock every three days," Mr Thorpe said.

The five paddocks wrap around the yards like a segment of a pie graph with a gate from the yards leading to each one.

"The forage brassica works really well with my management because with rotating stock every three days, the brassica gets at least a nine day break in between grazing," he said.

Mr Thorpe is a no till operator and aerial seeded the brassica in a mix which also included fescue, white clover and tonic plantain, on February 22.

The other paddocks in his rotational grazing system have native grasses, turnips, radishes and red clover.

The brassica after the fourth graze rotation. Photo: Supplied.

The brassica after the fourth graze rotation. Photo: Supplied.

Mr Thorpe said under-sowing the brassica mix in a paddock with native grasses gave the ewes the dry matter they needed.

"When you're dealing with brassicas you've usually got to have bales of straw in the paddock or a run off paddock with native or straw grasses," he said.

"But, because I sow under the existing native grasses, the sheep still have access to dry matter and I don't need a run off paddock."

The native grasses also helped to protect the brassica while it was germinating.

Mr Thorpe said he chose the Winfred brassica variety because it could be operated on a minimal rainfall of around 500 millimetres.

"I make sure only about 35 per cent of the total forage is eaten, the guides tell you it should be at 65 per cent, but I'm doing it for sustainable grazing for ewes, not fattening lambs, so I run it a bit differently.

"But the ewes have increased weight on it, the fescue has had an impact on weight gain too."

Four grazings down and still going strong

Mr Thorpe said after four grazings, the brassica was still 30 to 60 centimetres in height.

However, he did expect growth to slow down in July, when the heavier frosts set in.

Mr Thorpe said once the brassica growth slowed he would rotate his ewes back onto paddocks with turnips, radishes and red clover for an extra couple of days. He also planned to lamb on the red clover mix.

"I'll lamb in the first week of July, so I'll stop rotating," Mr Thorpe said.

"I'll leave the ones with lambs with the alpacas, and I'll drift off the ones that haven't lambed into the next paddock.

"I'll keep on doing that until they've all lambed and can run in the one mob."

Brassica has also been planted at Mr Thorpe's other property, Woodbine, located at Stannum, 55 kilometres north of Molly Downs. It is there that he runs fine wool Merinos.

"It's about two to three degrees warmer," he said.

"I planted brassica there on April 12 and it hasn't grown much.

"It's come up to about five to 10 centimetres in height and it's gone dormant.

"I will graze sheep on the paddocks as soon as spring breaks, which in turn will give me the extra nutrition load needed for lambing my Merino ewes."

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