Drip tape 2700 meters in a rol wit 300mm dripper spacing
Irrigate drier regions with new systems
New technologies, such as portable and sub-soil irrigation systems is a useful tool for farmers with pastures, who want to add value to their farms - especially in extensive livestock regions.
Pasture lands with planted grazing is essential in the Northeast Cape Witt Mountains with its cold winters and highland sour-veld.
After a visit to a fellow farmer in the Free State by Dick Isted, at the top of Joubert Pass between Lady Grey and Barkly East, he realized, that this practice was actually unheard of in much of the country's extensive livestock regions.
He believes that many more farmers could farm in the drier regions, with new technology and cultivars available today, where pasture adds great value to their farms, provided the grazing is managed.
Farmers have praised a new fescue grass mixture specifically developed by Agricol as an adaptable perennial pasture to serve the warmer regions.
He has his 1.5 ha camps grazed by 450 lambs for six days. With proper irrigation, the pasture recuperates and can be grazed again in about three weeks.
Fescue grass now tastier
Mr. Ruan Stander, agriculturalist at Agricol, said, on a farmer’s day at Carmel that Fescue grass is one of the most underrated pasture crops.
Tall fescue grows on a wide variety of soil types, and endures saline soils, waterlogging, and excessive heat and cold better than any temperate grass, he said. This is partly thanks to a well-developed root system that can use water more efficiently than other temperate grasses such as perennial ryegrass.
Earlier Fescue grass cultivar leaves were hard and tasteless, but much work has since been done on tastier soft leaf varieties such as Fuego and Verdant.
If fescue has been established, it shows strong perennial qualities, says Stander. Well-established grazing with good management can easily produce for ten or more years.
Agricol Fescue grass mixture consists of 2 x fescue base, cocksfoot, perennial ryegrass, red clover, and white clover.
An early and a late-flowering type of Fescue grass is added to extend the summer production. Cocksfoot increases the overall palatability and production, and perennial ryegrass helps establish the Fescue grass successfully. This is because the crop germinates slowly, and in the seedling stage is sensitive to competition from weeds. The ryegrass (not more than 5 kg of seed per hectare) suppresses weeds and complements the Fescue grass.
The two clovers in the mixture increase the quality and digestibility of the pasture and bind nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil.
Stander agrees with Isted, that farmers in the arid regions will benefit from the intensive management of their pastures. Fescue grass's production potential is, for example, 16 tons to 20 tons of dry matter per hectare, and he knows of many farmers whose farm carrying capacity is significantly increased by such pastures.
Irrigated alfalfa production potential is in the region of 16 tons to 20 tons DM / ha - just keep the bloat in mind.
Perennial ryegrass production’s potential is around 15 t / ha to 20 t / ha. Stander cautions that it is more suited to the temperate regions because the root system is relatively shallow compared to that of Fescue grass.
Poor management can cost you!
Isted emphasized that a successful pasture requires proper scientific management.
A soil analysis is essential before any grazing crop is planted. Deficits and imbalances first have to be corrected. The cost of such an analysis is small compared to your production costs.
Once the pasture has been established, it must be grazed to the right height for the particular plant species utilized.Isted says that the Fescue grass mixture grows so high that it easily doubles the ideal length for grazing by sheep. Then it should rather be grazed by cattle or used for hay. With sheep, half will be wasted at this height.
Isted emphasized that poor management of pasture can cost you. "Natural field is much more forgiving. With us, you have already lost potential return if the plants start to wither by 09h00. Then you had to have water already. "
One common mistake is over-or under-irrigation, he said. Proper scheduling, with moisture meters at different depths, is essential.
Most soils can absorb only 4 mm of water per hour. With grazing, the addition of a slope, and little organic matter, the water run-off is even quicker.
In scheduling, the water needs of crops also need to be taken into account. For example, lucerne roots can stretch to 1.5 meters deep into the ground. Therefore, moisture meters need to be inserted at different depths. Keep in mind that the soil dries out from above and from below. Grasses have shallow roots and need less water more frequently at a time.
Keep in mind that the water needs of a permanent grass or Lucerne pasture is high - about 1535 mm / ha/year if it does not rain.
"If your water is limited, and feeding the livestock in winter is necessary, for example for ewes that lamb, just 200 mm is enough to produce a forage crop.
"For most farmers, the critical winter feed is the main concern and additional water can do much to eliminate this risk.
Irrigation is a key component in the supply of green fodder. "
Posted adds that permanent pasture needs at least a year to get fully productive. Conversely, an annual crop can cost twice as much, with only half as much water to produce fodder in the winter. The disadvantage is that it must be replanted every year, but a no-till planter can greatly contribute to cut these costs.
If all other management practices are followed correctly, it costs the Isteds R250 of direct electricity costs per ton of hay. A diesel pump is not an alternative, says Isted. Such an engine's operating costs are about four times as much.
He warned against the early establishment of grass on established alfalfa. They once stepped into this trap. It frosted six weeks later and the seedlings withered due to the competition with the Lucerne.
His general practice is, before planting, to kill all existing plants in the field - mostly chemically with a glyphosate spray. He has, for example, successfully established clover, in a rocky field that was not even plowed, after the existing grasses were destroyed with glyphosatesate.
Instead finds one great advantage of pasture, is that a farmer with the right planning enables animals to be marketed when prices and profits are at their highest. He buys, for example, thin cows around the middle of winter and fattens them up profitably on his pastures.
"The pastures replace field, but it helps you to make just that little bit extra," he said.
Grazing: establish Fescue grass like this:
The establishment of the fescue ¬ grass mix in the autumn, from March to May. The mixture requires a fine, firm, and weed-free seedbed says. Ruan Stander, from agricultural Agricol.
It produces pasture throughout the year, with a peak growth between September and March.
Stander recommends that the first grazing be light, only from 20 cm to about 15 cm. This gives the plants a chance to form more petioles and strengthen the root system.
To ensure perennial growth, it advisable to rest Fescue grass during the hottest months for a month so it can build up root reserves.
Get Value: Graze timeously
Pastures need to be grazed at the right time and for the right period to attain the best value.
Once the pasture has been grazed to the required height (in the case of Fescue grass higher than 5 cm above the ground), the regrowth is slow because there is little leaf surface for photosynthesis. As the leaf surface increases, growth accelerates.
On the other hand, the quality of the pasture is at its highest with regrowth, and it decreases as the plant matures and becomes more fibrous.
It is therefore important to ensure that your pastures are not grazed too short as this slows regrowth, but leaving it too long the quality decreases and potential regrowth is wasted.
Mr. Ruan Stander, the agriculturalist of Agricol, said the ideal height after-grazing for the Fescue grass mixture is 5 cm to 8 cm (1600 kg DM/ha). The ideal height at which grazing should begin is about 20 cm (2500 kg to 2800 kg DM / ha).
Farmers in the drier livestock areas have new grazing opportunities thanks to a new seed mixture and mobile and subsoil irrigation systems.
The scientific management of pastures is well worth the money and effort.