For the Brady family of Eurongilly in southern New South Wales, early sowing is critical to the success of their mixed-farming system because of the tight integration between their grain and grazing enterprises.
After 105 millimetres of rain was recorded at the family’s 1024-hectare farm between 24 and 28 February, a paddock of SF Brazzil canola was sown on 9 March, followed by three paddocks of EGA Wedgetail wheat sown from 10 to 11 March.
SF Brazzil is a new open-pollinated, European winter-type, dual-purpose canola designed for early sowing, followed by grazing in winter.
James Brady, who works as an agronomist for Seed Force and helps out on the family farm on a part-time basis, says small-plot trials have indicated that a European winter-type canola variety can yield between 10 and 20 per cent more than the best of the current Australian commercial material. Another advantage of the European variety is that it can be grazed until early August in high-rainfall areas.
James Brady – maximising the integration of stock with
PHOTO: Paul Jones
It is all part of a carefully managed strategy to provide as much early green feed as possible to the family’s 3350 ewes to give their 100ha of newly sown pastures (a mix of lucerne, fescue and subterranean clover) and 250ha of established pastures the chance to bulk up during winter for spring grazing.
James says, in most years, allowing the sheep to graze the wheat, barley, canola and oat crops has resulted in improved grain yields over their ungrazed crops. Season 2012, however, was the exception because of the dry seasonal finish, compounded by a heavy frost, an infestation of barley yellow dwarf virus and overgrazing of the barley.
This year, the family is not using LongReach Spitfire wheat. Instead they have planted EGA Gregory and EGA Wedgetail only. The decision was made after learning about research by CSIRO’s Dr James Hunt that indicates grain growers may be better off sowing long-season wheat varieties in April or May rather than short-season varieties in June because the roots have more time to access nutrients and moisture in the soil.
While the Bradys are cautiously optimistic about the season ahead, given that more than 150mm of rain had already been recorded at the farm by the end of March, they are still putting in place a range of risk management strategies.
One example is the expansion of the area sown to Hindmarsh barley, because experience has shown it yields better than wheat in dry seasonal conditions. The barley also forms an important feed source for their sheep over the dry summer months.