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Successful Summer Cropping Workshops get dairy farmers thinking

Accelerating Change, in partnership with Tactics for Tight Times and the Gardiner Foundation, ran two Summer Cropping Workshops this month to get farmers thinking about how they could get the most value from maize or sorghum crops in their respective dairy farming operations.

Together, Matt Nihill, Cropping Agronomist from Landmark, and Lisa Birrell, Murray Dairy Extension Officer, discussed the agronomic, financial and nutritional considerations of growing a good crop and effectively utilising the feed. Service Providers and dairy farmers in the room also shared their experiences of summer cropping.

Matt and Lisa spoke about the differences between maize and sorghum, their availability at different times and offering different nutrition characteristics they offer your cows. Whilst sorghum can be directly grazed in the summer time, maize must be harvested and stored, and won't be fed out until autumn.

Sorghum can be a great option to fill a summer feed gap and, as it can be directly grazed, there is significantly less capital infrastructure required to trial it. On the other hand, farmers growing maize silage spoke about its value when stored and fed out to bulk out autumn pastures, and as a risk management strategy to have on hand for future feedgaps.

Matt also spoke about the several varieties of maize and forage sorghum-sudan grass hybrids available, and how to select one for your system (considering use, environment and growing period, for example).

Matt stressed the importance of understanding the commitment and the outlay required to achieve the yields of maize or sorghum that participating farmers were looking for. He likened growing maize to baking a cake - he emphasised that you need to follow the recipe to the letter to achieve the best outcome. This includes preparation, site selection and sowing, in-crop management, harvest, storing and feed-out. There are a number of really good technical resources available from the GRDC as well as commercial seed and agronomy companies to guide you.

Click here for links to the two grower manuals we found useful in the workshop.

If you are thinking about growing maize or sorghum this year, it’s vital that you plan and prepare your full agronomic program before you start, to ensure you get the best return for your investment. To assist you do to this, see this copy of the workshop presentation for details of each step of the "recipe".

When asked what they had taken from the session, many participants indicated that they were going to pay more attention to planning, paddock selection and preparation, especially after the wet winter which has resulted in pugging and compaction in paddocks as well as an increase in weed activity. Other participants said that they were not going to skimp through the growing season after hearing just how critical nutrient, water and pest management is.

Accelerating Change is making the Successful Summer Cropping workshop available on request. If you and your neighbours or Discussion Group would like to host a workshop, please contact us.

This workshop will be followed up by a practical crop tour of summer crops in the region to see how some of the agronomy considerations are playing out in the paddock this season. Upcoming details will be available here, on the Murray Dairy website, or via the Murray Dairy eNews.

For a summary of Matt's Take-Home Messages, watch this video:

Or check out our podcast.

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