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FEED365 Demonstration Sites: 2023 season wrap

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

The FEED365 Project is a collaboration between the Department of Primary Industries & Regional Development (DPIRD) and Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA). The purpose is to research and redesign livestock forage systems to fill feed gaps, develop new feed base options and integrate them into grazing systems.

ASHEEP & BEEF is coordinating three demonstration sites in the project between 2022-2024. Following is an update on how they played out during 2023 and some insight on the broader trials that DPIRD is running at the Katanning Research Station.

SITE 1: Early feed in a pasture (cropping rotation)

Location: Esperance Downs Research Station, Gibson

Host: Josh & Tegan Sullivan

Profile: Soil sample 0-40cm, sand to sandy loam, 5.9-6.4 pH(w)

Sub clover regenerating under waterlogging damaged crop
Images: Site 1 19/09/23 sub clover regenerating under crop followed by hay cutting several days later.

Paddock History: Regenerating pasture of rye grass, sub clovers, capeweed.

Paddock Name: E2

Objective: To increase early and late grazing potential while preserving sub clover.

Demonstration Plan: This paddock was sown into an experimental pasture mix in 2022, sown at two different rates. In 2023 the site was put into Planet Barley as part of the Sullivan’s cropping program. The intention was to run a crop grazing demonstration this year, however seasonal conditions did not deal a good hand, with a very dry start followed by significant rainfall at this site. 214mm fell during June. The crop became waterlogged and unfortunately plans to graze the site were abandoned. As the season progressed Josh debated on whether to harvest what he could or see if the regenerating clovers would bulk up for hay. The clovers made an impressive go of it and in late September Josh made the decision to cut the paddock for hay.

SITE 2: Pasture mix for long term pastures

Location: Esperance Downs Research Station, Gibson

Host: Josh & Tegan Sullivan

Profile: Soil samples 0-40cm, loamy sand / sand, subject to waterlogging, 5.7-6.2 pH(water)

Paddock History: Long-term regenerating pasture including brome grass, silver grass, geranium, rye grass, sub clovers.

Paddock Name: N4 Objective: To use tetraploid ryegrass to suppress unwanted grasses such as brome and silvergrass, and to increase pasture biomass.

Demonstration Plan: In 2022 this paddock was sown with a pasture mix and then divided in half, with one half grazed (Half A) and the other kept for hay (Half B). A deep rip strip was included for comparison purposes. In 2023 the site was split into halves running the opposite way (7ha each). Two experimental pasture mixes were sown on 22nd February, ideally to provide autumn feed, spell over winter and then graze again through late spring.

2023 N4 Half 1 (7ha) Pasture Mix:

Pasture Mix with Express Oats, RM4 Vetch, Balansa Clover, Alosca

2023 N4 Half 2 (7ha) Pasture Mix:

Pasture Mix with tetra ryegrass, margarita / cadiz serradella pod, express oats, balansa, alosca.

Our thanks to Esperance Quality Grains for donating the serradella mix.

With a very dry start to the season, the aim to graze during autumn was not met. A visual assessment of the paddock on 24th May 2023 determined that the plants were not advanced enough to cope with grazing and then be able to rebound for a second grazing, so in the interest of extending feed throughout the year grazing was not conducted.

On 21 July 2023 Josh reported that after receiving 214mm rain during June, and with site already being subject to waterlogging, the oats, rye grass and vetch were all dead. Later observation by Josh report that the only sown species to survive were Balansa clover and limited vetch. Wimmera Ryegrass and Brome Grass were also noted as surviving.

Site 2 under grazing 19/09/23 showing poor survival of sown species due to waterlogging.
Site 2 under grazing 19/09/23 showing poor survival of sown species due to waterlogging.

Later in the season Josh did get some grazing from the paddock, but given that the trial treatments had limited survival no measurements were taken and the demonstration was ceased. Josh applied a grass selective following grazing.

In October, Dr Daniel Real and Dr Angelo Loi (DPIRD) visited Esperance and we made plans for this paddock for the 2024 season. Angelo was particularly interested in trailing a mix that has shown promise under tough conditions in the Katanning FEED365 trials:

  • Triticale 40kg /ha - A mixture of Speedee (early cv) and Wonambi (late cv)

  • Cereal Rye 30kg /ha - Fastfeed or Vampire

  • Balansa Clover 10kg p/ha

Angelo noted that the Balansa is recommended at a higher sowing rate than usual because it will be sown dry and losses can be up to 50%. If budget was an issue, he suggested the Balansa ration could be brought back to 7.5kg/ha, but if not an issue (e.g. if someone was growing their own seed and had access at low cost) he’d recommend up to 15kg/ha dry sown.

SITE 3: Permanent Pasture System (Tedera)

Location: The Oaks, Dalyup

Host: Mitchell Greaves & Demi Vandenberghe

Profile: Soil samples 0-40cm, loamy sand to clay loam, 5.5-8.2 pH(w)

Paddock History: 7 ha creek-side paddock in pasture, unsuitable for a crop rotation with a sloping topography, higher rainfall and little by way of drainage issues.

Paddock Name: HP2

Objective: Establish Tedera as a permanent pasture to graze over the summer-autumn feed gap.

Demonstration Plan: Establish Tedera in winter 2022 and graze in autumn 2023.

Sown in June 2022 into a pasture paddock with Lanza Tedera 10 kg/ha, Nodulaid Tedera inoculant. Intent was to establish Tedera as a permanent pasture to graze over the summer-autumn feed gap. First establishment failed, knockdown applied, second attempt sown in September 2022. The Tedera was assessed as ready to graze in mid-April 2023, however as this was in the middle of seeding it was not the ideal time for the site hosts to be bringing sheep in and starting up the trial.

Site 3 Tedera 31/05/23.

In preparation for grazing to commence, on 21st May 2023 Sinead O’Gara (O’Gara Ag) took pasture measurements. Sinead observed a base of Tedera as well as a variety of weeds present in the pasture. The coverage of Tedera in the paddock was sparse and varied. There were areas where there was a high proportion of Tedera in higher density and areas where Tedera was small in size. There was an area of high lovegrass and dried grasses and areas where no plants were growing with bare ground and rock. The Tedera was variable in growth levels and maturity. A proportion of the plants were undersized and immature, and a small proportion <10% were maturing to flower. The larger plants undergoing flowering would have a reduction in nutrition and higher proportion of lignin.

Food on Offer (FOO) was reported at 620 kg/ha average (range of 0 – 800kg/ha). Below are a selection of images taken by Sinead, illustrating the variation in growth.


Samples were sent for nutritive analysis and Sinead reported:

  • Results showed moisture levels as being in line with biomass testing at approximately 30% DM and 70% moisture.

  • Significant high levels of crude protein (CP) were present in the legume, above average levels of over 15%.

  • Moderate levels of NDF (neutral detergent fibre) and ADF (acid detergent fibre) were in the legume, this indicates that there is higher % of digestible matter of the plant in comparison to indigestible fibre.

  • The lignin levels indicate fibre content of the fodder are moderate to low. The lower level of the lignin indicates that the material is highly digestible, and it would require a lower level of physical mechanism (chewing, chemical and churning of the rumen) to break down to absorb the nutrients and less of the material is undigested and passed through as waste. It also indicates a lower level of energy is used in the digestive breakdown process as a material with a lower lignin content is highly digestible.

  • TDN DM% is an indication on the % of digestible matter in the fodder resulting at 68.9% digestible, and approximately 31% of fodder consumed is passed as waste.

  • Energy ME (MJ/kg) were moderate to high at 10.95. This level of megajoules would sustain a single bearing medium framed sheep at 100 days of pregnancy. The minimum requirement of a medium framed single pregnant ewe is 10mj per day mid pregnancy.

  • The RFV – relative feed value was high at 280, indicating that this fodder is of high value and nutritional density.

  • Overall, the nutritional analysis of this fodder was of high value and is a good source of energy and protein.

  • A higher level of FOO would be optimal for this fodder to sustain and fill in the autumn feed gap - a common issue in Western Australia.

Daniel Real reviewed the pasture test results and commented that the results are consistent with DPIRD’s previous experience that Tedera is of high nutritional value and a good source of energy and protein. Daniel also noted that the analysis of mineral content indicated that the Tedera at The Oaks is quite low in Phosphorous (P) and Sulphur (S), and is fine for Potassium (K) (see Table 3). The P and S levels would have been restricting plant growth. Daniel advised that the Tedera would benefit from an application of 20 units of P and S with fertilizers like Super Phos; Big Phos or others with mainly with P and S.

Daniel went on to observe that the % DM indicated that the Tedera was quite water stressed. Normal values for green plants are about 20%. During summer when Tedera is drought stressed, DM% goes up to about 30% and when happily growing in winter and spring it will be at about 20%.

On 31st May 2023, condition scores were taken of the sheep. The sheep were due to be shorn and it was intended to get this done the following week and to start grazing after that. Due to wet weather conditions the sheep were not able to be shorn. Weights were then taken on 12th June 2023 and grazing commenced that day. Table 4 contains data captured from the sheep.

Stock measurements grazing tedera
Table 4: Stock measurements.

Condition scores were taken with thanks to Jake Hann, Nutrien Ag Solutions.

Tedera paddock post grazing with weeds
24/07/23 Tedera after six weeks of grazing.

Sinead O’Gara attended the site to take pasture cuts toward the conclusion of grazing on 5th August 2023. Key areas of Sinead’s observations included:

Tedera samples post grazing with weeds
Representative images taken by Sinead on 05/08/23.
  • The area had received high levels of rainfall for the month. Saturated soil.

  • There was high level of weeds in the paddock and limited Tedera proportion to weed. A mixed variety of winter weeds were dominating the ground coverage. The Tedera that was present was small and isolated in numbers. In certain areas there would be 85% weeds and 15% or less Tedera. Herbicide had not been used to control winter weeds which were in strong competition with the Tedera, and the sheep grazing the paddock would also target the highly palatable Tedera over the winter weeds giving them further advantage.

  • The Tedera present had low biomass and was heavily grazed. As a result, biomass cuts could not be taken.

  • The Tedera was not nodulating – it presented a strong tap root but no nodules present on the root system. The lack of a root system may be due to the high level of water and low level of drainage in the soils. The soil composition of sandy loam – held sufficient levels of water, but the sandy component also ensures adequate drainage.

Sinead’s recommendations included:

  • Remove the sheep, as long-term grazing will negatively impact the growth of the Tedera into the spring and reduce biomass and productivity. Livestock should be removed from the paddock in the cooler months to allow growth of the Tedera and ensure a positive recovery in spring as the soil and atmospheric temperatures increase.

  • Grazing should recommence in late spring when there is an increase of Tedera biomass. Early spring this is the prime period for Tedera to regrow and increase feed availability. Grazing should be deferred until there is adequate growth of Tedera allowing to reach full potential. Pre-maturing grazing could negatively impact the Tedera’s growth and limit it as a feed source into spring. Grazing should be completed rotationally graze and not set stocked. Livestock should be rotated when there is a reserve of 500kg/DM biomass of fodder remaining. A reserve allows the Tedera to recover and resprout new foliage.

  • Apply herbicide control to target the competition going into the warmer months targeting the broad leaves and reduce the competition of weed vs Tedera. During the warmer months of spring the current weeds will intensify and outcompete the Tedera and limit it as a feed source.

Sheep were removed from the paddock on 8th August 2023.

Mitch and Daniel discussed the site in late August, with Mitch commenting that the rest of the same flock were grazing Illabo wheat at the same time and that the animals in the Tedera had better performance. Daniel recommended that the tedera would benefit from a selective mix of Diflufenican (200 g a.i./ha = 400 mL/ha) + Flumetsulan (40 g a.i./ha = 50 g/ha) + Diuron (180 g a.i./ha = 200 g/ha.

Ultimately, Mitch decided not to apply the spray at that time due to other commitments and also raised that the site had required a lot of herbicide and pesticide inputs since establishment. Part of the challenge is that the paddock is coming out of permanent pasture and as a result, weed and insect pressure has been significant.

The paddock is not suitable for cropping and was identified as an area that would benefit from improvement. ASHEEP & BEEF is in discussion with DPIRD about providing a degree of cost / benefit analysis to this site.

In October, Daniel and Angelo visited the site, with Daniel noting that “the Tedera was coming back nicely after the grazing, considering the dry conditions and the large weed competition.” Being too late to spray, it was determined to leave the site ungrazed until the autumn feed gap when green feed will be most valuable. “Therefore, next grazing might be in March/April/May 2024 and then in Nov/Dec 2024. Grasses will need to be controlled prior to grazing in autumn with a pre-emergent application of Propyzamide or Ultro.

Tedera paddock with weeds and researchers
Dr Daniel Real and Dr Angelo Loi visit the Tedera 12/10/23.

“There will be an enormous amount of ryegrass coming up, it will be good to control it very early. Post-grazing, we might need another grass selective herbicide like Select or similar plus a broad leaf herbicide depending on the weeds present,” said Daniel.

In early December Mitch reported that the Tedera seems to be handling the dry conditions well so far, better than the lucerne they also grow.

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