Friday, July 8, 2022

Nothing but the best will do

Edgecumbe dairy farmer Peter Berryman is planning to plant only Aber High Sugar Grass (AberHSG) pastures in the future as part of his regrassing programme.

He has planted 15ha of the variety since participating in trials for Germinal Seeds seven years ago and has been so impressed with its persistence and high palatability that he won’t plant anything else until there’s an even better grass on the market.

Germinal Seeds general manager David Kerr said at a field day on his farm in October the high sugar grasses were bred to last for a minimum of 10 years despite having no endophyte. The oldest pastures in New Zealand from Northland to Southland all had no endophyte, he said.

Farmers should have a digestibility (D) value available soon as part of DairyNZ’s forage value index (FVI).
“We know for every one unit increase in D value in a pasture it is worth between 0.25 and 0.4 litres more milk/cow,” Berryman said.

His pastures had withstood attacks by black beetle, which neighbouring farms had issues with, he said.
“If you have the soil and pasture environment right then the bugs are not a problem. My argument is a bug has a very different digestive system than a cow, so if you’re growing something a bug likes you’ve got a problem.”

Berryman has been impressed by the resilience of the Aberdart and Abermagic varieties he has planted, which have withstood both droughts and being bogged underwater for days on end. The flat farm is prone to some flooding, but he said the AberHSG still had new roots after having water lying on top of it for five days.

Berryman has always had a strong emphasis on getting the best soil environment on his farm and has used dolomite fertiliser for almost 30 years to help achieve that.

He and wife Robin own 70ha, on which their daughter and son-in-law, Liz and Danny Henman, now milk 190 Holstein/Friesians producing 96,000kg milksolids (MS)/season. This averages 549kg MS/cow, 50% above the Bay of  Plenty average of 321kg MS/cow.

The farm grew 18 tonnes of dry matter (DM) last year, carrying 55-60 replacement calves and heifers for half of the year. Grass silage and hay, which are made and fed out according to the season, are supplemented by 1.8kg/cow of meal and 93 tonnes of molasses.

Berryman said he had not planted enough AberHSG to have a clear understanding of the impact on his product, but he had been impressed by the palatability of the AberHSG. He said the cows loved it and cleaned out paddocks well.

That was because of the high sugar content, Germinal Seeds’ Mike O’Connor said. O’Connor, a former AgResearch scientist, was recruited two years ago by Germinal Seeds. He has looked at all four NZ farms trialling AberHSG pastures, including Berryman’s. There he found excellent root structure down to 600mm and a good grass and clover ratio of 70/30.

All the farmers told him persistence was better than NZ-bred ryegrasses, pastures were very palatable and utilisation was excellent. Cows loved it and cleaned out paddocks well.

He said in the two trials AgResearch had undertaken, AberHSG had proved to have a sugar content 15% above other ryegrass varieties.

“The sugar content was 40% higher in the leaf and 22% in the sheaf (stalk) at the bottom,” he said.

“This is mainly why the utilisation is so good. The animals are eating higher sugar content right to the base.”

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