Dual purpose crops reduce risk

Dual purpose crops reduce risk

Cropping
Angus cows grazing crop in the Riverina.

Angus cows grazing crop in the Riverina.

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Dual purpose crops create many opportunities for farmers according to John Kirkegaard from CSIRO

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Wherever you are across southern NSW, whether the tablelands, on the slopes or out on the plains there are many opportunities to incorporate dual purpose crops within your enterprise mix.

Speaking during the Grains and Research Development Corporation (GRDC) webinar on the direct and indirect contributions of dual purpose crops to farm profitability, John Kirkegaard from CSIRO noted some key principles that apply in each situation.

Dr Kirkegaard said farmers who have adopted those principles have increased whole-farm profit.

"The grazing opportunity links to the sowing opportunity and the earlier you can sow the more biomass you can produce, the bigger is the grazing opportunity," he said.

"Of course, when you want that crop to recover and produce grain you have to stop the grazing before stock start biting the heads off which limits the size of the grazing window as you move west and crops mature quicker."

The grazing opportunity links to the sowing opportunity and the earlier you can sow the more biomass you can produce, the bigger is the grazing opportunity - Dr John Kirkegaard, CSIRO

Dr Kirkegaard pointed out in seasons like we are currently experiencing where growth has been phenomenal, the crops are ahead of where they would normally be and livestock have been dear to purchase, it is still important to sow the right variety at the right time.

"So if you can't graze that crop or you can't graze it heavily, it will still flower and produce a good grain yield," he said.

"But there a lot of other benefits from grazing crops."

Because dual-purpose crops can be sown earlier, Dr Kirkegaard said the whole farm program can move earlier which allows all of the paddocks to benefit.

"Your winter stocking rate can be increased, and pasture paddocks can be spelled while crops are grazed during the winter," he said.

"Crops grow a lot faster during the winter than pastures so stock can be concentrated on the crop."

Cross-bred ewes grazing crop in the Riverina.

Cross-bred ewes grazing crop in the Riverina.

Dr Kirkegaard noted the combination of grazing canola, grazing wheat and barley can be sown, grazed and harvested at different times so the workload is spread.

"Importantly, after the last two years grazing crops are a great risk management because there are many exit strategies," he said.

"Generally the grazing options are there, but if the season then cuts out there are opportunities of making hay or silage and if the season shapes up then it can be taken through to grain."

Dr Kirkegaard said his experience in evaluating grazing crops for more than ten years show when properly managed, farm profits per hectare increase quite significantly with a relatively small area of the farm grazed.

Of the two key principles crucial for success, he noted early sowing is the platform for success.

"It is about being prepared for those early sowing opportunities, with good fallow management, being on top of the weeds and understanding any withholding issues with livestock," he said.

"You will also have to have thought through your livestock plan to make money out of all the forage."

The other key principle is know when to end grazing and remove stock to allow sufficient time for the crop to recover fro grain yield.

"You really need to remove animals before the 'safe stage', which is before the crops reproductive parts are being grazed," Dr Kirkegaard said.

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