Chris Delladova from Kober in fodder beat in December
There has been significant excitement amongst farmers in the Accelerating Change project around the potential for fodder beets as a direct grazing option for the region. Fodder beet is high yielding annual crop which provides feed over late summer and autumn. It has large leafy top and large bulbs that sit high up out of the soil. This distinguishes it from sugar beet, where the majority of the bulb sits within the soil, and needs mechanical lifting in order to be grazed directly. Fodder beet also has a slightly softer bulb, and has been specifically bred for animal feed purposes, so has a lower nitrate content in the leaf than sugar beet.
Fodder beet is grown extensively in New Zealand and the UK, and has the potential for very high yields (30t/ha plus) under good management. Nutritive characteristics are around 12.5-13.5 ME and 6-8% protein. In Australia, fodder beet has been trialled in QLD, Tasmania and WA. There is an excellen...
At their meeting the Stewart PIT also discussed initial data from the 5 Observant capacitance probes installed on the Stewart farm. Throughout the project the PIT farmers have had numerous discussions on the value of moisture probes and how to use them most effectively.
Soil moisture probe take home messages
Look for the decline in daily water use and ground truth what the cause is. Is it moisture stress or another factor?
Set your own refill and full point management lines. Probe software might give you indicative positions but you have to tailor it to your farm, your soil, your crop and your water infrastructure. If it takes a few days to order or apply water give yourself a bigger buffer between timing of irrigation and the point of water stress, in case things go wrong.
Check it regularly! Read the soil moisture probe graph every couple of days and more frequently if you are nearing irrigation or there is a big change in weather-either rain or heat wave.
Accelerating Change Performance Innovation Teams met in November and December. A significant amount of the discussion focused on the group's summer feeding strategies, characterised by limited water availability and high prices.
Kelvin Matthews and Don Stewart are already seeing the results from improved data collection on farm. The nutritive sampling Accelerating Change has been conducting has revealed that their lucerne pasture was of excellent quality, much higher than the PIT group expected (ME 10.7, CP 29.4%, NDF 36.6% and ME 11.5, CP 33.2% & NDF 34.2%). Working with their nutritionist Andre Nel from Ridley's, they worked out their cows were receiving an extra 30 ME per day than required, and body condition score was increasing over time. Armed with this information they have reduced their grain intake by 1kg in the dairy, saving approximately 27c per cow per day. Over 500 cows this is a significant saving. Body condition is now being maintained. The herd will be monitored over ti...