This month Al & Juddy share their expertise on one of their favourite topics, summer brassicas.
Join the lads while they discuss and give examples on linking summer brassicas to farm systems, along with a summary on the history around summer brassica grazing management.
Including tips and tricks on getting summer brassicas reliably established and, thoughts around maximising performance across various stock classes.
“Know your summer brassica, and get the right one for your forage needs, your farm system and your climatic variability”
Juddy Right. Well, Alister, you're looking great today. What are we going to cover in this episode of The Al & Juddy Show?
Al Glenn we're going to cover one of my favourite topics and one, you know, I've done quite a lot on over time and that's summer brassicas. Got a lot of history in this one and it's got a lot of variation which suits, you know, our views on farm systems and strategic use of feed really nicely. So we're going to be going through how we actually link summer brassica to farm systems, which summer brassicas we've been involved in, and what we're using to date. We are going to give examples of how they fit in farm systems. A bit of history about some of the work we did around grazing management and some of the really key and very classical take home messages from it. Going to hopefully cover a few things to watch with some summer brassicas because it's always not plain sailing and we may do some practical tips on just getting things established in a reliable way as a finishing point.
Juddy Well, that sounds like a really full programme, and I probably want to start this with a story because, you know.
Al You go for it, Glenn.
Juddy Great podcasts start with a great story. And this is really a story around actually discovering offhand almost how brassicas fit into farm systems. And so, it starts with me. I was looking, doing some work for some deer farmers. And we were doing a little bit of on farm research and we were looking at a lot of information on animals and looking at conception rates and weaning rates and how fast deer we're growing to look at the productivity of these systems. And they happened to be in a dry East Coast summer dry environment. And one of the things that stood out from that piece of work was there were some key times in a deer's annual cycle. Where if we intervened and were able to provide additional nutrition, greater intake, and higher quality feed, we can make a massive difference in the weight of young animals being tuned out of that system. And it just required intervention where we were looking for high quality feed in the middle of summer for these animals. Because deer are quite seasonal and they are lactating in the demand for high quality feed is in that summer period. Now typically in the foothills the hills where they are traditionally found. That's about when spring arrives. But in a farming system, particularly in dry coastal areas, we've almost run out of feed at that stage. So we needed to be able to find a solution where we could provide these animals with high quality and high amounts of feed, and high allowances. At a time when the environment, it wasn't easy to do that in an environment. So I remember thinking at this going, the problem that we've got is finding a feed source at that time to get the benefits that we could out of those hinds. And the benefits that we were hoping was that we were going to get a greater milk production from them. So we've got these young animals growing faster because Mum's got more milk, and also an early transition of those young animals onto dry matter. So they were having less milk and more high quality forage. And if we were able to do that, we thought by the time we got to weaning we would have those animals will be a greater weight. So remember, I'm getting on the phone to my good mate, which happened to be you at the time, and probably still is. And, what I asked was, I've got an animal problem and I need an agronomic, a forage solution. So, what can I have, what can I plant, what can I grow, that gives me high quality forage, high volumes of it in the middle of summer. And so that's where we got to this idea of saying, well, it may be one of these annual brassica crops that could help us here. So maybe you could pick up the story from there and talk a little bit about what some of those other options were. But why we finally came to the brassicas as being a really good solution.
Al And the key here is that there are only a few things that can transfer, particularly in a summer dry environment, moisture that is most likely predominant in late winter and spring. But, transfer that moisture as standing dry matter into a dry summer. And one of those details around the deer production system that you didn't quite nail in that intro was that actually when you set stock for deer for fawning or calving. You can't go back into the paddock, you can't mow it, you can't control it. And regularly they get out of control and the overall pasture quality is very, very poor in a lactating hinds pasture.
Juddy And just to pick up on that, the reason that you can't do that is unlike a lot of our domesticated animals, hinds will actually hide fawns. And those fawns won't come out of that hide, which could be a tall pasture unless mum's with them. So you can imagine if we take all the hinds out and then mow the pasture, then we probably going to mow down some of the very animals that we that we're trying to raise.
Al Pasture, quality control is virtually impossible in a deer system. So we targeted using the spring moisture and carrying it forward with volume. And also because of the stock type, we targeted the structure of being able to open gates when the fawns became more active. And come into the pasture and make their way into this high volume brassica. It was really interesting and we digress already in this conversation. But what was interesting is the fawns didn't grow faster. Because the hind was an incredible buffer of nutrition to that fawn. But what we achieved quite dramatically was much, much greater hind body condition and live weight at weaning. Typically a hind sheds all that weight off her back, all that poor pasture quality, she buffers the fawn provides highly valuable, highly nutritious milk, and grows that fawn out at a reliable level based on its genetic potential. But she ends up being a bag of bones just before she needs to go back out to the stag. What we found with that project, as those hinds came out of those crops and create an incredibly good condition. And what that meant is that they started cycling earlier. So the actual gain was in the whole system where the hind cycled earlier, which is a unique and different thing for that animal class, and brassica played a massive role with it. But you were right to say that fawn was adjusted to that feed source, and was able to wean and come back on to the highly nutritious brassica crop, in autumn. And continue that precious live weight gain through this. Post-weaning Autumn.
Juddy Yeah so I guess you're right that in the lactation phase they don’t grow any faster and that's a really important point there. But they are very well adjusted to that feed and therefore we don't get that weaning check at the
Al Fawn in the wean level.
Juddy Yeah. So and the other point that you brought out that reminded me was, you know, we had these hinds that were in excellent condition because they'd managed to not lose any live weight as most do over that lactation. And remember, we were standing at the bottom of the paddock. And I guess this is the critical function of here as we've still got these maybe hillsides where we're carving down on. But as those, as we get to that, you know, middle of lactation, we are opening up a gate so that they do get access to that. So they can still hide fawns on the hill but get access to this high quality forage. But the really interesting thing is watching Hinds go uphill. We thought we had staggers, didn't we? We had these hinds that looked like they were having trouble walking up the hill. And it wasn't till we realised that it was actually memory development in the amount of milk they were carrying, that we realised that was the reason for staggering.
Al Which is unusual because hinds don't show a huge udder. Yeah, and with.
Juddy High quality feed we were managed, we managed to reverse live weight loss and actually have these animals and grading. And that did lead on to yes, fawns that were well adjusted to feed at weaning. But also, the hinds were cycling really early. And the way to get early calving the following year is to have high in cycling. And so you kind of spiral up and it was a, I think what it showed was that where you can get interventions for short periods of time that have long lasting effects, they are the things we should be chasing in terms of our farm system in getting a summer brassica to do that job. I think it was a, it paid absolute dividends.
Al And it's a great lead into, you know, the summer brassicas and when you look at what they are. Glenn, do you know what would you describe the summer brassicas as a category?
Juddy So I see these so these are a group of plants that are quick growing, they're annuals. And we are planting those and using moisture when we have it and carrying it in periods where we don't have it all, or, where we have shortages of feed. And I think the deer example is a really good one. In terms of the brassica, the style of plant, we know and we eat cabbages. They are in the same brassica family, as broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. If you want to even suggest that they exist, I try not to eat brussels sprouts. They're not really a food group. But they are from the broccoli family, and sorry the brassica family. And what we've done is we've used some of those species in an animal situation. So annual crops, high quality, are growing a lot by using moisture at some time of the year and in taking it and to others. In terms of the ones that we use in agriculture, the key ones are around the turnips. So we have both bulbs and the one that just grows leaves. So the leaf turnip, we've got the forage rapes and the kales. They are the key ones that we use from a livestock point of view. And typically they're sewn into spring moisture and grazed in summer, where they start drying off. So that's kind of the high level summary of what a brassica kind of is. I guess what we probably could extend to is, so how would you specifically use those in a farm system. What can we use those for? What's the intervention that we might be able to get some benefit from?
Al You know, I think this is where we start to break them down and identify the options we have. Because there are pretty much two defining features that we should probably pay attention to when you're making your choice on farm. One is the so-called maturity date or the ripening date of the crop, and that is when it is at the right time to graze. And all of these options, have different maturity dates. This means different things to different people. And it's the difference between starting to graze at the start of summer versus starting to graze in the middle of summer. And when you start to graze defines the potential for how many times you can graze within a year. So understanding that is quite important. The second thing is to understand the breakdown of the two primary summer crops that we're using which we're going to discuss today. Which are the leafy turnip and the forage rapes. And with a quick shout out at the end to kale, which is traditionally a winter crop but is showing a lot more flexibility than we probably first recognised. But touching on the big difference between the leafy turnips and the forage rapes is that the turnips are a much higher fertility plant than, those that desire and to perform in a much higher fertility environment, and, also a higher moisture regime. So we're talking about summer dry. But there are still gradients of summer dry and the summer turnips are much more suitable with periodic summer moisture. And I think we lose sight of that quite regularly and we put the forage rapes into environments that are potentially too wet in summer and they are not as high performing as they are in drier conditions. So the summer rapes are designed for a greater range of soil types. No brassica likes wet feet. They all prefer free draining situations. You tend to find summer turnips, so the leafy turnip is more suitable for slightly more summer rainfall and higher fertility situations. The forage rape tends to be a species that is far more at home in true dry land conditions where you're harvesting spring moisture and going into prolonged periods without moisture. And that's and that's the home of forage rape. And that's why forage rape has been so successful in our history and Australia as well. So those are they are the key definers of the difference between the leafy turnip and the forage rape. And that's the first point to understand. I mentioned the other point being maturity, and, I might dive into that. And I might take the opportunity to use our varietal names inside the Agricom business and identify, using them to identify their positions and that maturity range. So our first product is a leafy turnip called Hunter and it's a long term product. I've worked with it for a very long time. And the key to Hunter is that it's about a 55-day maturity. That's really fast. So you're sewing in, traditionally, and just after the middle of spring. The point with leafy turnip is not to sew too early into cold conditions. The turnip family has the propensity to bolt if and that means go straight to flower if it's sown in conditions that are too cold. The key to 55-day first grazing is that it is really genuinely designed for early feed requirements. If you leave it too long, and I think, Glenn, we sort of identified through a lot of our projects about 22 to 25 centimeters in height. Probably the best part of about 2800 kilograms of dry matter. That is the sort of target to start grazing because the acknowledgment is that you have to start somewhere. It's growing extremely fast at that mass and if you don't start, it gets away on you, it becomes a very bitter style of plant and, takes a lot for animals to get on to it.
Juddy Yeah, I think and I think the critical thing here is the context around what's too late. Because we're saying, you know, we need to be in a 50, 55 days, 65 days, and our experience is getting too late. We do have this issue where lambs particularly, but other grazing livestock will take longer to get on this. You have higher residuals, it'll look like they want to eat something else. And so I think that stage of maturity, particularly for the leaf turnips, is around that 55 days. And we've got to see these systems up to be able to meet that pretty accurately in terms of getting the best out of this.
Al And if I just put a wee note here can we come back to the leafy turnip, maturity time to graze, and, discuss animal adjustment, palatability, and preference?
Al This species is my poster child of where we give animals too much credit for what they want to eat, what's compared to what they should be.
Juddy Yeah, I agree and some of this comes back to that or a lot of it relies on that maturity period. So it's very important. So leaf turnip we've got yeah.
Al 55 days, fast turnaround, the potential for between two and three grazings, and then it tends to run out of gas, I describe it as a battery. You can use it multiple times, but the reality is it does start to wear out. Turnips are not resilient species as I've already described to you. They don't like it extremely dry and extremely hot. They're quite susceptible to several insect pressures. And they do prefer higher fertility. But if you get your grazing management right, a good three grazing is quite uniform. And hunters with good grazing, good fertility, and reliable moisture Hunter is really up for at least four grazings in good conditions.
Juddy And I want to know whether it's my analogy, but I kind of have this thing called the finite yield theory. This means that right, based on your environment, you will get a yield regardless of sort of how many grazings. But it'll be, if you take two big ones, then it's over. Or you could take three moderate sized ones or four little ones.
Al So most of these things, we all end up working out around between 10 and 12 tonnes depending on your fertiliser, fertility regime, soil and rainfall, and moisture. The key is the cool thing is that you can get that 10 tonnes in a dry land environment. But if you have a high rainfall environment, you get that 10 tonnes differently. And that's a model of fast grazing, but you then run out of gas.
Juddy Right, so for that, I'll just give you a mental picture for those people who are trying to think what a leaf turnip might look like. I think kind of almost like a parsnip root with a crown that's growing, continuing to grow leaf back. Like a turnip but it's the leaf that's what we're after.
Al A relatively soft plant so if you do eat the bulb and you chisel out the bulb through overstocking, you will lose plant number. And that's where the grazing becomes. It starts to decline with time because fundamentally, if you overgrazed animals will preferentially take out a few bulbs, and before you know it, you don't have the plant number to make it economic.
Juddy Right, tell me about the forage rapes because they are probably the next in this continuum of maturity.
Al Well, you know, I've had a long history with the early maturity forager rapes, and that category is represented now by Mainstar forage ripe for us, which is pretty much a 75-day maturity. You can see there's quite a gap there of at least 20 days over the leaf turnip. But that is still considered very early maturity. Now, the key to this type is rape is that fundamentally you can leave it beyond 75 days. There are no real hard, fast rules about that. But the reality is it will not accumulate as much growth as the late maturity rapes, which are more like the 90 to 100 day rapes. So technically these are shorter style rape varieties, of forage rape varieties, and they just don't continue to accumulate the same as the late maturity types. When we discuss maturity flows onto a discussion later regarding some of the animal health issues that we can face with summer brassicas. And that that defines maturity and ripening a little bit. But the real key point here is that Mainstar, we're confident that traditionally it's ready to be grazed quite regularly around that 75 day mark.
Juddy And what are the things that might push that maturity period out a little bit? So so delay maturity.
Al it is important to understand this because the North Island suffers (North Island of New Zealand) suffers this from quite regularly. Technically the only true rape environment and the North Island is the East Coast, the dry and hot East Coast. The key is we have suffered from longer summer dry periods, which makes more of the North Island more suitable for rape every year. However, still, many of these environments are 800 to 1000 mil rainfall or above on real terms. This means that for periods of time they get the normal rainfall. This also means these rapes don't stop growing in deep, fertile soils with constant rain. And so suddenly you get them behaving outside their norm because they are actually outside the traditional area. And that is the traditional home of the leaf turnip, the fertile summer moist environments. Or periodic summer moist. Whereas rape absolutely excels in the lower rainfall summit environments. And that's a nice definition, due to prolonged periods of dry and changing environments. Rape, forage rape, has been used in wetter and wetter, traditional wetter environments. This means that now and then you get your normal weather conditions, and the brassica like forage rape isn't always ideal.
Juddy Yeah. And I think those are I've got a story about that that I think illustrates it well. And that was a farm that was traditionally summer safe, well grass all the way through the summer, and had good legume content. In one particular year, the whole place went brown, because, they had an unusually dry period. It was getting drier through the years, but they had one that was really dry. And so the farm management decision the following year was to go. We're going to put some forage rape in because that will help us through this period, we have gone very dry. And as you've said, the next year was probably one of the wettest summers that they had had on record. And so what happened is this forage rape grew and it grew into hadn't matured. And it carried on growing. And the difficulty they had was and will come to some of the animal health challenges particularly forage rape that hasn't matured. It almost became a crop that they couldn't graze when they wanted to because of this. And so this is the key is there is a bit of luck almost here in terms of going I don't know what the summer's going to bring. And if it's a wet summer, and I've got a plant that's traditionally used in dry situations, there will be a challenge for me.
Al Absolutely. For live weight gain and also animal health. And straight away, you go back, why didn't we use leaf turnip? Because actually, that's its natural placement. And so that leads onto the later maturity rapes, the 90 days. And they have historically been utilised as a one graze summer crop. But with the genetics that we've got in spitfire forage rape particularly, we see that second grazing event as a real tangible option. If you can get that second grazing of being 30 to 35 days after your first grazing. Quite regularly, that will allow you to shut it up for winter feed as well, maybe dragging Italian ryegrass through the residual crop and carrying that into winter as a mixed winter crop. So genetics has enabled the 90 day to 100 day rapes and you know, variety by variety. But in the case of Spitfire, to get that second and sometimes even the third grazing, if the time permits. But nice varieties, there are a couple more options in the summer brassicas the traditional summer turnip is the bulb turnip. And that's quite regularly used for a one graze standing feed, particularly in the dairy industry in the summer dry dairy environments. The traditional summer turnip environment because the extending dry phase has started to share its role with chicory. And the weird chicory has excelled over summer turnips is when the summer dry period extends a month to two months longer than traditionally. And if it's a small window of a summer period that is dry for, say, 4 to 5 weeks. Summer turnips are a great option because they give you a perfect pasture renovation tool. Gives you a high protein fade through summer when the landscape starts to stress out and become brown. And it gives you a bare paddock at the end of it to make, you know, not get confused with your decisions on do I take another grazing or not? And then you're ready to go as soon as the rain comes for a re-pasturing. However, what's happened regularly in that marketplace is that the summers have got drier and drier, and that's where chicory has come in. Over the top of that, it's the summer turnip for its flexibility in how long it lasts.
Juddy Because I guess in that one if you've got a plant that is requiring that periodic summer moisture and you get to a dry period. What you don't want is a plant that when you need it, the dry matter production or the yield that you get is very poor because it's been.
Al Or it's already been eaten. It's just finished. Yes.
Juddy And the other thing that can happen in these very hot, prolonged, dry periods is that even if you've got crop left, sometimes those chestnuts can go quite rubbery. And therefore, the palatability of those drops off and there are, you know, as you see chicory, there are some better things that you could use in the environment.
Al I still love it though, as a pastoral innovation tool. It's a defined grazing period and you've got a nice clean finish. So you've, your benefits with turnips is that summer turnips, bulb turnips, is that you can get back into your pastoral phase at a smart and concise timeframe.
Juddy And I guess the other thing is chicory, this is a multi-graze crop. You'd be taking multiple grazers of this particular, particularly these summer turnips they are a one graze. What can whole big covers or big tonnage but there are a one off graze. So it is a slightly different way of using those crops.
Al Correct. And the next one is, look, our SovGold kale has developed a nice role as an equivalent of a 100 day rape. We traditionally use kale for winter feed, but we're seeing a really strong place for kale's flexibility of using it as a single graze or even a multiple graze brassica in summer then shut it up for winter feed, which is its primary role. But the key to it is the flexibility of being able to put it in the ground. And if it gets wet, you don't have to graze it. You can move it into your wintering policy. If it gets wet and it continues to grow, it doesn't have some of the maturity issues of the rapes or the ripening issues. I use those words, hopefully, will pull them apart a little bit later. So we are seeing that the use of kale from the summer strategic summer feeding phase is quite flexible and it does fit some of these systems quite nicely. But it's still quite a minor option relative to the big, big hitters that we've already mentioned.
Juddy Yeah, certainly the way that we've started to use that, it's the flexibility that you don't have to graze it. It can form part of your winter feed and has been really useful. It means that you're not making, you've got some flexibility around that, which I think is important, particularly in environments that are becoming a lot more variable. Yeah, we've got the ability to respond to that.
Al So we should get into the examples of using summer brassicas and, the systems that they fit into. We've teased apart quite an interesting one with the lactating hinds.
Al So and it goes back a long way Glenn. And I think first of all you didn't have grey hair. And second of all, we both looked a lot younger. So I think when we did that, that would have been the late nineties or early 2000.
Juddy I like to think of those two, I like to think those two things are correlated with me being younger and not having grey hair. But you're right. That lactating hind thing. And just to recap that, so the benefits that we got out of that was providing feed in a dry summer to animals that were responding to that, in a whole farm system. And the ability to have a crop that we didn't have to control quality on, we could open up, which is a requirement of those lactating hind systems.
Al And it had long lasting effects. You know, that that hind body condition meant an earlier mating time frame, which meant that the fawn in the future was born weeks earlier, getting achieving 5 to 600 grams a day on mum at the very start. So 14 days at 600 grams a day is quite a big deal in the deer industry. And if we were going to make an advantage and weaning weights, obviously genetics plays a massive role in the breeders are doing an incredible job with deer in New Zealand. But if you can fawn earlier, you've got that guaranteed extra live weight at the start which flows on to weaning weights at the end.
Juddy So the other way we use this in a very popular is around finishing lambs over summer. So we've got lambs born in early spring, and then we wean those. And, this is a crop that we can get lambs onto over the last parts of spring and into early summer in terms of achieving high live weight ready for hitting our target live weights when we might sell low. What are the benefits of using a brassica crop in that situation?
Al Yeah well again it's the guaranteed quality feed. So I think and there are so many farming businesses that are out there, they have to still make up their minds. Are they store systems or finishing systems? And when we get back to the productivity and the profitability of using summer crop finishing. It's really important to recognise the biological system really does work. And I use that terminology because it's the financial system that normally defines your personal experience with using, investing in, creating a cost structure around putting in the summer crop, and trading lambs through a summer crop. So quite regularly, if your margins are low, you require a high turnover and sometimes the profitability is marginal in summer are cropping. So you have to be fully aware of that when you go into a summer cropping regime. The big point being is there's very little else in your landscape that you'll be able to do this on. And so your actual alternative options don't exist. And in summer dry or periodic summer dry environments, you could certainly lamb finish on lucerne, you've got other options, but brassica forms this strategic position in lamb finishing.
Juddy Got a really good story about this and this was when we were doing some of the work around allowance which we're probably going to get to later in this, this podcast. But remember, we were buying the earliest of lambs out of the sale yards and we were using the allocation research. And as you say, the biological system was working well. We were at times regularly hitting group averages of 350 grams a day. Animals were growing very quickly. We had, you know, high stocking rates. These were very productive systems. And we were buying lambs, doubling their live weight almost right. And making less than $5 a head. And it wasn't because the system was broken or there was something wrong with the system. It was the fact that our buying and selling policy reflected that, that the problem there. And so it still comes back to the fact that in terms of margin. Buying and selling policy, what you buy them for and what you sell it for is still critical in terms of that financial. But it’s quite clear that from a biological system in terms of the fastest and the most productive way of getting small lambs to be big lambs are on some of these brassica crops.
Al And that leads on nicely is that it's not always outright. I mean, the easiest thing really to model, to be quite frank, is the margin. And so selling lambs is a really easy thing for people to respond to. That's why it's worth us touching on this separation of the biological system using summer brassica works with lambs. Whether you're making money off it, is very much dependent on your buying and selling policy. However, then it gets much more complicated because growing out ewe lambs, replacement ewe lambs in a dry environment, brassicas is second to nothing. And I think it does exceptionally well. It’s guaranteed feed at a time you can't guarantee everything else is growing if there's no moisture in your landscape. So developing young lambs into well grown out ewes and giving yourself options for the next productive timeframe is significant. The other thing that we've seen with time in the sheep industry is the flushing of ewes through dry autumn. So again, you've got other powerhouse species such as lucerne, that may be available at a time when the landscape is brown. You might have lucerne in your environment, but you may not also have that. And Brassica is an outstanding species for flushing ewes prior to mating and moving their body condition forward. Supplementing dairy cows, again, we've discussed the role of summer turnips in this category. But I think there's probably an emerging role for both the forage rapes as those landscapes get drier. And also using a one graze kale system with dairy cows as well. I think is going to be an emerging system for both summer but also early autumn grazing as well. We've discussed the hinds, and, they probably cover the majority. We've had a lot of history with finishing cattle and it does fit the cattle system quite nicely because you do tend to find that dry land environment that suits particularly the forage rapes are not easy to maintain cattle and body, live weight gain in cattle. And so as a standing protein hay shed, it's an effective tool. We've got some colleagues and some of our international friends up in northern North America, particularly in Canada, which are doing some amazing things. Harvesting spring moisture and using our summer saved early fall brassica and cutting it on the onset of snowfall events and using that for winter swath grazing it's really impressive to see where people have adapted some of these systems and are using them in different landscapes. Quite impressive. Likewise in Australia, they run a bigger lamb system in Australia too. Now history with our earlier, forage rape which was Winfred, actually it's it was a huge rape for us both in New Zealand and the emergence of this early forage rape category but also in Australia. Our colleagues in Australia have used that a lot and I think you give coming in to sort of the grazing management side, we have one great analogy based out of Australia because they're not weren't used to this at the time and I, I smile every time I hear it. But you've got a great story of dealing with stocking rates on Winfred. Now I like it because, you know, it doesn't matter how dry you are, as long as you get a decent amount of rain at the establishment phase, you can create anything. So you can have an extremely low rainfall environment. But as long as the rain does arrive in late winter or in, very, very early spring, you can convert to something quite special. And this is a really good analogy. I'll get you to share that, while you're young.
Juddy Yeah. So if we're thinking about grazing management this is really around some of the first times that we were thinking about allocation. And so we arrived at this property where they had been growing canola, hadn't they? And they had decided that this particular year the price of canola seed was going to be very low but lambs were something that was going to make a lot of money out of. So this farmer and the cropping zone decided that he was going to have a, he was going to only replace some of his canola with this essentially grazing canola, Winfred. Right. So it's a for forage. And so he generally put in a small area which just happened to be about 250 hectares because he thought it was quite small. Now, what the real problem was that he didn't have you know, he had only about 300 or 400 lambs. And so when you looked at, you know.
Al 3 inches of rain when it mattered.
Juddy Yeah. So so he was carrying covers of four tonnes and with only that number of lambs, he wasn't even close in terms of being able to utilise that. So that was kind of that when we started thinking about is there a [indistinguishable], can we give him some ideas about how much, how many lambs he would need or more to the point what area of crop he probably should have put in based on the number of lambs. And I think it's really important, it's a really good story because he was way out. I think we worked out that instead of having 400 lambs, he probably needed three or four times that number to get anywhere close. And it's a good story around allocation because that's probably where we have done most of our work is around what is the correct allocation, how do we achieve that? And what's the allocation where we get the most out of the whole system?
Al So Glenn, we should cover this because we need to keep moving. We're well through this discussion. And I do feel that this is a key point because, with these crops, it is regular with lambs to just set stock them, unleash it. From a farm management perspective, it is just so much easier to let them go in the paddock. So what we're looking at there is a couple of things that I think we could start with the fact the adjustment period is probably a critical part of the discussion before we get into the actual detail.
Al And we've touched on it before. Associated with maturity or ripening.
Juddy Yep. So obviously if you've got some lambs that have been let's say they've been out grazing, perennial ryegrass and we want to move them to one of these summer brassica crops. You've got to recognise that those two forages are quite different in terms of their makeup and it's going to take some time for any grazing livestock. But let's talk about lambs here to make the transition from having rumen bacteria.
Al A full diet of grass and fiber.
Juddy Yep. Through to a brassica diet. And so we've just got to allow that to happen over time. So typically what we'd say is we go through this transition period. And so what I would be doing is sometimes we do that in time. So we put these animals onto the crop for a short time so they can start getting used to it. And then we can put them back in the paddock. But at some point what we need to do is get them onto that crop and not let them come back. And the reason that we need to do that is because, although brassicas are high quality and they grow huge amounts and are very useful from a summer dry point of view, they are probably at the bottom of the preference spectrum.
Al I will hold you up there because it's not all brassicas. The leaf turnip particularly is far more so than the rapes. The forage rapes are quite palatable. And it's less, there's some soil interaction. The reality is they're quite palatable. But the leaf turnip couldn't be more.
Juddy Yeah. So. So I guess what you're describing here is what we would say is the leaf turnips a little bit, the way I view brussels sprouts. I really, it is at the lowest on the lowest part of the spectrum in terms of preference. And so what we've got to at some point is as lock these animals on and force them to eat it. So it's one of these situations where if they didn't want to eat it if they could not eat it, they wouldn't. But, when they are on it, they're growing quickly.
Al And that's good for them. So I use this as an analogy and some farmers listening will actually, you know, probably not agree with me here. But I use this as the best analogy to highlight. Like humans, you don't always know, you don't always do what's right for yourself.
Al And as far as your choices, your eating habits, and everything. And we give animals quite a high level of credibility associated with they know what's right for themselves. But for example, with leafy turnip and it's this high quality forage. It is, but it does get bitter with age, and we've already described that. However, you open these young or these lambs, weaned lambs, fully weaned lambs up into this leaf turnip and it's a little bit too mature, so it's gone bitter. So those lambs will spend all this time eating forages all around the outside of this paddock. That carry all three parasitic larvae that are going to damage them over time and create problems for them with endophytic rye grasses that are in amongst the fence lines and all around the outside that could give them staggers. Grasses and other plants that actually will actually be creating live weight gains in about that time of year of about 80 grams a day. And that is their choice. As opposed to you encouraging them by not giving them as much choice to move on to this forage and force them to start eating it. And suddenly the risk of getting parasites is vastly lower. The live weight gains go from 80 grams a day to closer to 280. And you've quoted 350 on the good class of animals and the peak of live weight gain. And you don't have any risks of things like ryegrass, eggs, and other things that are found in the old pasture that's often around the outsides of paddocks. So again, their choice is for everything but the thing that was good for them. Our job as managers is to ignore their choice and get them to eat it because we know that it's going to be economically more important for us, but actually, it's going to be good for them.
Juddy And so I think if we just unpack the so we're going to just transition from yep, we've got these animals on. Now typically, set stocking is easy. I like a rotational system and it might be as simple as putting one fence or maybe even two fences across the paddock to split into two, three, or four. However many.
Al Or two or three, four paddocks.
Juddy And so what that allows is that if we are rotating round, we're eating through that crop and then moving on. And what’s surprising, we've done a lot of work in terms of, you know, what's the most appropriate allowance, what's the stocking rate there, how quickly do we move on. And the one thing that sticks out to me is looking out for me above anything else is, it's where you grow the most forage. So this is not even about the animal, which is a bit mortally wounding to me Alistair, but it's not.
Al It’s all about the plant.
Juddy These systems, the most productive system is where you grow the most forage because where you grow the most forage you will have a higher stocking rate. And it's stocking rates that push these along. If you've got more animals per hectare, then you will have a far more productive output than if your stocking rate drops. And so it's not really about the speed of growth, the animals, because they're all pretty high. It's actually about the number of animals you get on that.
Al So draw a picture. We did this with chicory. We had a radish, a regrowth radish in the day. Leafy turnip and early maturity forage rape. And we did an allowance project associated with giving them different allowances ranging from about 800 grams. Or was it one kilogram?
Juddy Yeah, we went right.
Al This is the lamb.
Juddy Yeah, we went right down to essentially if they ate everything in the paddock, they would just be at maintenance.
Juddy So you can imagine they cleaned these things out right to the boards. In fact, we had some fence posts that went missing. We think they might have been. Right up to luxury feeding where it was difficult to see where they'd been. And so, what we found there is that we're getting the maximum performance out of our crop for the leaf turnip. That's where we are eating two thirds and leaving about a third. So we're not eating more than that because we're eating more than that. Our growth rate slows the animals. In the forage, rape was really interesting. The kind of take home message there is if you can eat all the leaves and halve the height of the stem. And if you're in a rotation and that's what you're leaving being one, your animals will be growing very quickly, but your crops growing quickly behind you. So they are the key take homes in terms of those allowances.
Al And it became a uniform allowance though. And allowance we're discussing here is the animal’s actual intake.
Al Plus the residual.
Al And so it's an almost embedded thing. So across the board, I have a different. You managed to create a curve.
Al My optimum on that curve was a little bit different from where yours is. But the other principle that came into play here is that we still produce the most meat per hectare. Where our animals were growing about 80% of their potential and our stocking rate was almost optimised. I wouldn't say intensified, it was more optimised per hectare.
Juddy Yeah. Because I think if you try and maximise.
Al Live weight.
Juddy Your stocking rate.
Juddy Right. Then actually your animals don't grow fast enough. I mean so it's really about optimising stocking rate. And you're right, what was very interesting was for both the leaf turnips and the forage rapes and the chicory, that was about the same where each individual animal was. Are you saying growing about 80% of what we thought its maximum was because of the stocking rate?
Al Yeah and what was your figure, and I’ll tell you mine.
Juddy That was our sweet spot. I think my figure for those young lambs in terms of allocation per lamb was around two.
Al Yeah, correct. And I was sitting anywhere between 1.8 and two because I felt the curve. We didn't have enough points on it. It was, it was a distinct curve. But we didn't have enough points to just see where that optimisation kicked in. I reckon it was somewhere around that 0.8 to 2 allocation of kgs of dry matter.
Juddy Per lamb per day.
Juddy Now I guess we can't.
Al Things to watch out for. I need to get on to this because I don't want to leave without it. No.
Juddy No. So we do need to cover the things that we should be looking out for in terms of maybe some of the challenges.
Al I remember we’re mostly dealing with summer brassica here. So we've already and I might start actually because I've used two words today. One is maturity and one was ripening. And in my opinion, are interchangeable. But what do they mean? And again, I think it's very subtle. But if I was to share my view of maturity is when it stops growing. When a plant stops growing. And we've discussed environments where the plant doesn't stop growing and therefore it's hard to reach maturity. But that's where I believe a plant hits a ceiling yield and doesn't want to move on and that's genetically based and the different varieties. Ripening, I still perceive as where secondary plant compounds are sitting within the plant and they are becoming safer and safer to graze. And so I see one as reaching a ceiling yield. Another is ripening where the secondary plant position is actually at a place where a plant may be safe to graze. Now, the primary thing with so-called ripening is interlinked with maturity as photosensitivity. And what are we dealing with here when that happens?
Juddy Yeah. So the mechanism behind that is what we see in the paddock is these animals and they've got, it's like sunburn. So what scabs on is this could move to other parts of the body. It's typically, it's a reaction to sunlight, to the sensory plant compounds that we find circulating in the blood. So typically the ears, but we do find it on other parts.
Al Interestingly enough Glenn, I reckon I could tag every animal in a flock that would get photosensitivity because it tends to be the genetics that has the pinkest noses.
Al The animals without a covering of wall on their ears. And technically, there are a lot of breeds that are quite distinct like that, but also individuals within a population, they stand out as the ones that will get sunburn. Pretty much like the human population as well.
Juddy Yep. So, remember, it's not sunburn, but it's the light reacting with the plant’s injury compounds that have found their way to the skin surface. And so there's where we can find photosensitivity. I think what you would say is it's quite prevalent across herds, but within herds or mobs of animals, there are only a few. Until we get one of these situations where, you know, you've got issues with half the mob or the herd. And that's because we've got away right away from the maturity issues. May have been delivered by the environment. So that's photosensitivity. What I would say is, watch that. The key thing for those animals is I'd be drafting them out and I'd be getting them into some form of shade in and off their crop. And as long as there are only a few of them, you can continue to quite safely graze the rest of the crop. Some animals are more predisposed, as you pointed out, to those. Where we've got a large number of animals that's probably a case where we do need to get that mobile herd off in and we need to wait for that crop to then reach a stage of maturity.
Al So now I think for photosensitivity, for summer brassicas, one of our big ones. Nitrates are the matter around nitrogen use. You shouldn't put nitrogen on then graze within 20 days prior to that and then regrowth crops applying nitrogen is appropriate. But just don't do it. Don't come back to the crop within 20 days because your risk of nitrate poisoning is high. Blow for summer isn't a major risk in my opinion. But with cattle and summer grazing, you should make sure your clostridial vaccines are all up to date because you are dealing with high quality forage. And we do tend to find that clostridial can be a big deal with cattle.
Juddy Yeah. And so I guess that's the bit nothing to do necessarily with the brassica. But if you are, if you are intensively grazing, strip grazing, you do have high stocking rates, and you will have a high degree of fecal contamination. And as you say, you're dealing with a crop with high water soluble carbohydrates, just exactly the right environment for some of these things to get out of control.
Al So just before we will finish, I'll just leave a few parting tips on getting these things established. This is really going to be a very quick overview, but I would always ask everyone to remember about creating summer crops is that we are trying to get something established using spring moisture and then take it into dry summer conditions. So by definition, we're quite close to it going dry.
Al And I think people must understand that there are some unconditional timings that you in a dry land environment you should always adhere to and recognise that going too late is a great risk of failure because fundamentally you're getting closer and closer to the dry phase. So a couple of things that are super important are seedbed preparation and soil consolidation, which are a really big deal leading into summer cropping. And fundamentally, if you go dry after establishment, good soil consolidation in a fine firm seedbed is an essential thing. This is a brassica just like horticultural brassicas that we used to eat. They require good seedbed preparation and or good establishment conditions. They can be direct drilled, but with direct drilling, it is going to be essential to apply phosphate and nitrogen and have a component of that down the row with the plant at establishment because brassicas respond to phosphate, and the root structures are much enhanced by having good access to phosphate. They are heavy nitrogen feeders because you've heard me mention we've talked about leaf quality. But the real key is that in a brown environment they're full of protein, proteins are nitrogen, and you need to feed them to get the forage, quality, and quantity. Be aware of insect controls, particularly at establishment. It's quite difficult in the summer because you're actively grazing where possible. So get on top of some of those bugs by grazing. But that feed is really important to carry forward. Don't be afraid of using the correct insect control for the species that you've got present. Weed control, you tend to find again with these grazing types, it's the establishment weights that you need to be aware of. But the reality is you are grazing quite quickly. So again, it is only when you've got severe pressure. The key with these multi-graze species as they have got an opportunity to be mixed with other things through summer. And we've had great success with sewing our Ecotain under leaf turnips and regrowth rapes. We have had great success with our Choice chicory. Under this, we've had great success with relish red clover. Using them as companions to multi-graze brassicas. But they do change your weed control options and they do provide other decision processes, particularly when it comes to autumn, as how you manage them. But they have been truly successful.
Juddy Right, well I will set you a challenge now Alistair. Listen, I've enjoyed our trip through summer brassicas, some old stories from days gone by, but I'm going to set you a challenge. Do you think you can give us two or three key take home messages people should be thinking about when they are thinking about summer brassicas?
Al Oh, that's a tricky one, Glenn, considering we've just chewed through so much time talking about them. Three key messages.
Al Know your summer brassica and get the right one for your forage needs, your farm system, and your climatic variability.
Al You need to know which ones you're working with because getting that wrong is not great. One of the key points I would take from the grazing management side of it is that the brassica when it's in the correct condition will always deliver a consistent animal performance. Your job as a manager is to grow as much brassica as possible. Therefore, grazing management is focused on enhancing the most growth as possible. So giving yourself the cleanest regrowth phases will maximise your yields. So the true economic return from summer grazing is that can you move from the 10 tonne barrier which you may capture by three or four grazings to 12 tonnes, and suddenly the economics of summer brassica becomes attractive and you can do that through good grazing practice and good nutrient management. And the last one is probably getting your establishment right. You're about to establish a really valuable asset in the form of a summer crop, in an environment where you could need it getting your timing on the mark, that you're not getting too close to the dry. You get a crop fully established before you go dry. You don't go too late and in some cases, you don't go too early because it requires good temperatures to drive that. Timing of establishment will deliver you a strong outcome. Good seedbed preparation, and good consolidation. So those three things would be my, outcome.
Juddy Thanks Al, geez is that the time? I've got an appointment at the vet. Poor old Jack he got kicked by a bull, so I better go. Catch ya.
Al Seeya Juddy. Bye bye.