A guide to filling the winter feed gap with forage cereals

Forage cereals are essential for bridging the “winter feed gap” in Australia where summer pasture growth slows in the north, during cooler months on the tablelands and slopes, and before spring pasture growth in southern Australia. Forage cereals can be sown into stored soil moisture conserved in summer fallow, planted on late summer storm rain, or on the autumn break depending on your location.

Forage cereal planting options to get you through the winter feed gap

With the release of Severn Forage Wheat, an awnless winter wheat, S&W Seed Company now offers a complete range of forage cereals, offering planting dates from early autumn through until early spring. With the differences in maturity and development, it is possible to start with Severn, switch to either S&W Overland Forage Oats or Bronco Forage Oats, and then sow Kraken Forage Barley in the early winter. Alternatively, both S&W Overland and Bronco can be sown at a similar time as Kraken, providing a quick feed option with the slower maturing Severn winter wheat. These planting options ensure there is grazing available until spring pasture growth has occurred.

Severn Forage Wheat, an excellent option for grazing, hay and silage

When it comes to winter forage options, winter wheat remains a popular choice. It provides an opportunity to sow early in the window without the risk of the crop running to head because of a warm, dry autumn. Winter wheat needs vernalisation in order to become reproductive and produce a grain head. Severn Forage Wheat is an awnless, tall winter wheat with a dense tillering habit, making it an ideal choice for grazing, hay, and silage.

Depending on seasonal conditions and sowing time, Severn can be grazed multiple times before terminating the crop at the end of spring. It can be grazed then locked up and cut for hay late or, due to its long growing window, can be cut for silage in late winter then hay or silage in spring. Because of these characteristics and its leaf disease resistance, including demonstrated resistance to the new eastern stripe rust pathotype, Severn is an excellent choice for grazing, hay, and silage.

Dairy farmer, Chris Maslan, from Gloucester said, “Winter wheat allows me to sow early onto soil moisture in fallowed country, and it’s just got more guts than the ryegrass early on. The cows will usually do ½ a litre better (of milk production) when they go on wheat.” In previous years, Chris has used S&W Bennett Milling Wheat; this season he planted Severn in conjunction with Bennett, and was pleased with the results.

Click to view S&W Severn Forage Wheat techsheet

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S&W Overland Forage Oats to replace Outback in 2022 

Forage oats remain a mainstay of S&W forage cereal offering, with tried and tested Outback Forage Oats being replaced by the newly released S&W Overland Forage Oats in 2022. S&W Overland offers improved tiller production and a wide leaf with the same mid to late maturity as Outback.

Click to view S&W Overland Forage Oats techsheet

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S&W Overland Forage Oats, Bordertown, South Australia

S&W Bronco Forage Oats powers on

Over several years of testing, Bronco Forage Oats has shown outstanding performance and rust resistance. Bronco is a mid to late maturity forage oat that is ideal for Northern NSW and throughout Queensland. It has been shown to have good emergence under warmer soil conditions, is quick to first grazing, and recovers well, making it suitable for multiple grazings through the season.

Gareth Birrer from Nanango in Queensland found that Bronco was highly palatable, and “the cattle left very little behind after grazing.” With good grazing management, Bronco can continue to produce excellent tiller numbers providing grazing and hay options later into the season when some earlier varieties have already set seed.

Click to view S&W Bronco Forage Oats techsheet

Kraken Forage Barley provides “consistent hay in the bale”

S&W is updating its forage barley portfolio to include Kraken awnless forage barley, which will replace Moby in 2022. Kraken provides a faster to graze or late sowing option for grazing enterprises, complementing forage oats.

Kraken is 2-row awnless forage barley with an improved leaf disease package and a later flowering period than Moby. As Kraken matures faster than oats or wheat, it can be planted in late autumn to allow multiple grazings or in early spring to provide hay or silage only.

Hay producer Rob Verrall of Warrill View, Queensland, trialed Kraken in 2020 against Moby, which he was growing at the time. He reported that “Kraken appeared more robust in the stem” compared to Moby, and “had green leaves to the bottom of the plant,” making “consistent hay in the bale.”

Click to view S&W Kraken Forage Barley techsheet

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At Rob Verrall’s Warill View farm, Kraken Forage Barley is ‘robust’ and ‘has green leaves to the bottom of the plant’

Interested in S&W Forage Cereals for your enterprise?

When choosing forage cereals, location, personal preferences, and recent experience are often factors to consider. Contact your local S&W territory manager and discover how S&W forage cereals can be placed into your fodder program, helping you to fill the winter feed gap and produce quality fodder for a productive enterprise.

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