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Benefits of multi-species pasture swards are not a new occurrence, however there’s renewed interest in what diverse swards can offer modern production systems.
Well-designed multi-species seed blends have diversity that can increase overall yield, diet composition, beneficial companion plants and reduce the risks of a range of environmental challenges.
On the flip side, things to be aware of when using diverse crops include optimising establishment and limited weed control options.
Peter Notman, dairy farmer and owner of Notman Pasture Seeds, said some producers added different varieties of seed to their standard winter and summer pasture stands to provide more forage diversity and drought hardiness.
“At the dairy, for our spring plantings we aim to achieve a good balance of fibre and protein with the likes of millet, forage rape, leafy turnip, chicory, plantain and legumes,” he said.
“Multi-species blends like these give us more summer feed than traditional rye-grasses, reliability in drier conditions and most importantly our animals milking well off it.
“We continue to learn more on the interactions of different species, what works and what doesn’t, and carry this knowledge to our dairy farmer clients.”
Understanding the right composition can be complex as every farm and paddock is different, so Notman Pasture Seeds has carefully designed multi-species blends for dairy farmers who are looking for an alternative to standard rye-grass and legume pasture blends.
“These blends generally produce good quality forage year round, with a range of different root systems, including legume species, different flowering plants and species that will add organic matter to the soil surface and in the soil as root mass,” he said.
“You’ll see different plants prosper at different times of the year. This plant diversity provides for a more balanced diet of protein, fibre, energy, and minerals, and these mixes seem to have extra soil benefits.
“Certain species are highly competitive with other species, so we have suggested sowing rates to ensure all species are well-represented in the seed blends.”
Mr Notman said it was best to start on small areas and work out which varieties prospered on your property. Then, observe the results and adjust the species and seeding rates as necessary.
Spring/summer forage planting options include millet, forage sorghum, forage rape, kale, turnip, leafy turnips, chicory, herbs, clovers, lucerne and maize.
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