Gippsland farmer trials bread wheat for cows

Gippsland farmer trials bread wheat for cows

The small number of wheat growers in Victoria’s Gippsland region often plant feed varieties for use in local livestock operations, but Riverslea dairy farmer Garry Green has been trying a different approach, growing bread wheat to feed his herd.

Mr Green switched from the area’s more popular Australian Feed (FEED) varieties to Australian Prime White (APW) wheat three seasons ago to feed his 600 cows at Riverslea Pastoral Company.

APW is used in the noodle and bread markets.

Rodwells Sale agronomist Gary Condron, who oversees the cropping program at nearby Rosedale, said his client chose APW for its nutritional value, high yield and bold grain that cracks better in the mill.

“The majority of wheats grown in Gippsland are longer season winter feed types because they have more window to build yield and some can also be grazed,” Mr Condron said.

“But what we found was that growing a high-yielding mid-late maturing APW variety like Trojan can provide nutrition and yield.

“Garry used to grow Beaufort, but he likes the boldness of Trojan and the way it cracks. He gets better utilisation through the cows, as the harder grain converts better in the rumen.”

Mr Green’s 130-hectare crop of Trojan was harvested in late-December 2016 for a peak yield of 8t/ha, tapering to an average of 6t/ha, providing 780t of grain.

Mr Condron said by growing his own broadacre cereals, his client had cut feed costs associated with grain price fluctuations and freight.

“When grain has been dear, it’s been good for cash flow to grow it himself.

“A lot of grain comes in from the north, which adds around $50/t for freight, so a handful of farmers are doing well growing grain in Gippsland.”

The late-April sown crop received a significant fall of 150mm in June, but it was an otherwise average rainfall year for Rosedale, with 416mm of growing season rainfall recorded.

Wheat is not the only broadacre crop grown on the lease paddock, with canola introduced to the program to tackle herbicide resistance.

“Garry had a ryegrass problem that we needed to get on top of, so we used group B herbicides in wheat post-emergence,” Mr Condron said.

“I switched Garry over to triazine-tolerant (TT) canola to stop herbicide resistance developing.”

Mr Condron is confident broadacre cropping has a bright future in Gippsland, offering farmers a nutritious and cheap feed option.

The pair have repeated last season’s program, with 130ha of Trojan sown recently.

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Image: Rodwells Sale agronomist Gary Condron inspects client Garry Green’s crop of Trojan at Rosedale.