Murray Dairy has partnered with the grain and fodder industries to deliver six winter forage demonstration sites across the northern Victoria and southern Riverina dairy areas as part of the Fodder for the Future Project.
This is a two-year, $1.6 million project funded by the Federal Government under the Murray-Darling Basin Economic Development Program.
Its aim is to support dairy businesses at a time when increasing numbers of farms have moved away from relying on perennial pastures and are now growing more winter and summer crops.
Each of the six sites has run trials to demonstrate crop varieties and management strategies to increase yield and quality of hay and silage for dairy cows’ diets.
The demonstration sites include trials on wheat, oats, barley, vetch and cereal as well as a look at something different, faba beans.
The demonstration sites monitor sowing times, sowing rates, fertiliser application and harvest times to see the impact these strategies have on crop yield and quality.
The Murray Muster in Yarrawonga on May 18 and 19 — run by Murray Dairy — heard updates on trial outcomes.
At Tatura, Agriculture Victoria sowed irrigated wheat. Results from the first year showed nitrogen rates and sowing affected tiller density in wheat, with nitrogen application having the greatest impact.
The Birchip Cropping Group trial at Mitiamo showed hay yields from certain varieties of oats were higher, while sowing date had no impact on yield or quality, and there were some yield responses to nitrogen, but none from potassium or phosphorous.
The Irrigated Cropping Council winter trial site at Kerang found that manipulating stem diameter did not affect quality, but cutting time impacted yield in the cereal crops. The faba bean trial found that yield improved with later cutting times.
The University of Melbourne trial at Dookie confirmed the trade-off between cutting time, yield and quality for cereal crops. Higher sowing rates led to smaller stem diameters, but did not translate to higher forage quality.
At Finley, the trial found that one variety of vetch had better quality attributes than the woolly vetches. High sowing rates resulted in more plants established, but did not follow through to improvements in yield and quality.
The Riverine Plains trial at Rutherglen (conducted in wet conditions) found that vetch struggled in wet conditions and was out-competed by oats.