Quick feed from grazing corn in SE
A GRAZING corn gaining popularity in the United States is also helping Nangwarry Station grow more valuable summer feed.
The South East property is one of only a few in Australia growing BMR corn, a low lignin hybrid which can tolerate lower soil temperatures at sowing.
The flood irrigated crop, which quickly reached two metres high, is being strip grazed at high stocking rates.
Last year, Nangwarry Station’s Dugald McLachlan achieved 600 kilograms of liveweight gain a hectare between January and late March off 15 hectares.
He was so impressed that in 2018 he has expanded this to 80ha.
“It wasn’t bad for a first attempt but we are aiming for 1000kg/ha (of liveweight gain) this year and then 1300-1400kg/ha.”
Mr McLachlan says he came across brown midrib corn on YouTube while looking for an alternative to sorghum, which can be difficult to get the grazing management right.
BMR has much greater utilisation by both cattle and sheep than other conventional hybrids he has grown.
“They start at the top and nibble their way back to the stump – there is nothing left,” Mr McLachlan said.
“We don’t want it to cob – we want to treat it like a grass”.
The BMR corn was sown in mid September at 70kg/ha with an Australian Soil Planners planting liquid blend. It has also had 200kg/ha of sulphate of ammonia fertiliser.
A mob of 250 Angus steers averaging 520kg began grazing the BMR corn last month and are being moved every couple of days.
Mr McLachlan is also hoping to achieve one kilogram a day weight gains from weaners on the corn.
He estimates BMR Corn uses only one-third of the water of an irrigated ryegrass crop and 25 per cent to 30pc more than sorghum. Two irrigations of 0.8 megalitres/ha have been applied so far.
The biggest challenge is deterring birds at crop emergence, but Mr McLachlan is confident it has a bright future.
“The dairy fellas are getting later and later each year waiting for their maize to ripen,” he said. “If they could get this off in mid-March and take what they get and go back to their winter crop and utilise April and May growth, there may be an extra 5t/ha in a winter-sown crop.”
The ability to sow BMR grazing corn in September in the South East is a huge advantage, according to Naracoorte Seeds managing director Jamie Tidy.
“Unless we have a belter of a spring, our soil moisture is gone by November or even December when soil temperatures reach 16 to 18 degrees for other sorghums, so that is why people like brassica, chicory and millets” he said.
“The guys we are dealing with in Qld (Radicle Seeds) are saying (you can sow down to) 10 degrees and even eight if the soil temperature is rising.”
This season, Naracoorte Seeds has sold about 40 tonnes of BMR corn seed with the majority dryland sown at 20 kilograms a hectare to 30kg/ha.
Mr Tidy believes it stack up economically, with one of their Western Vic clients achieved an outstanding 1.5kg daily weight gain in steers last season.
BMR corn also enables good weed control prior to paddocks being sown to permanent pastures.
“We believe chicory and medics have a huge fit in pasture mixes locally, but often your chemical control options can be limited, especially if dock and wireweed appear in a seedling pasture as they are nightmares to try and control,” he said.
“Grazing maize allows in-crop chemical control of these problem weeds.”
Aside from the feed, Nangwarry Station is using summer crops as a “break crop” after clay delving flood irrigation bays.
“Our biggest problem here is inundation in winter – delving adds some clay to the topsoil, deepens the profile and improves the hydrology of the soil,” Nangwarry Station’s Dugald McLachlan said.