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Beyond the Bale : March 2012
22 22 SELLING MORE WOOL September 2010 BEYOND THE BALE March 2012 BEYOND THE BALE 22 ON-FARM Morgan and Debbie Sounness farm a 1277ha property on the sand plain east of Albany, WA near Wellstead. They have a mixed enterprise of cropping (130ha oats) and 5000+ sheep with a big focus on superfine wool, which has progressed along with their use of kikuyu. They have also developed a kikuyu seed production business which is one of only two businesses producing seed in Australia. Morgan first planted kikuyu over 18 years ago to prevent wind erosion on sandy paddocks that were fragile and difficult to manage. Some of these paddocks were prone to waterlogging in winter and then would blow in summer. This made them very difficult to crop or graze, as well as making them vulnerable to erosion in spring and summer. Kikuyu is a subtropical grass that has both stolons and rhizomes. This made it an excellent option for controlling wind erosion. It had been grown in the high rainfall areas of the south coast of WA for decades, however Morgan’s property was well outside of the zone where it was traditionally seen as a viable pasture. The first plantings of kikuyu were on shallow to medium depth sand over clay paddocks that were the most difficult to manage. Despite the relatively low rainfall (400mm) the kikuyu flourished and there is now 550ha of it, with Morgan and Debbie aiming at planting 75 per cent of the farm to kikuyu. THE SYSTEM Morgan uses his kikuyu to provide a reliable base of production which is critical to producing fine and strong wool. Trials by EverGraze have shown that kikuyu has a digestibility of between 60 and 70 per cent with the best quality achieved under closely grazed stands that have a large proportion of fresh new growth. The trials also showed that stocking rates under combined kikuyu and sub clover pasture could be increased by 60 per cent when compared against annual sub clover based pastures (which are the dominant pastures in WA). Morgan grazes his kikuyu heavily. It is not spelled and is grazed for 90-100 per cent of the growing season (kikuyu and sub clover pastures can grow for most of the year). This can be done due to the extensive web of rhizomes and stolons that allow the plant to grow back rapidly and the deep root system (up to 4m) that will chase moisture down into the profile. In Morgan’s system the kikuyu is effectively used as a green feedlot. The kikuyu provides an even base of nutrition for the animals throughout the year with Morgan providing mineral supplements and oats to balance the nutrition. However, the aim is to minimise this as much as possible. The kikuyu goes dormant in winter so getting a good mix of annual legumes in the pasture is critical. Heavy grazing especially in autumn opens the stand up and allows the annuals a chance to germinate. If the kikuyu is not grazed heavily enough it will choke out the sub clovers. Morgan’s main focus is to increase FAST FACTS l Trials by EverGraze have shown that stocking rates under combined kikuyu and sub clover pasture could be increased by 60 per cent when compared against annual sub clover based pastures (which are the dominant pastures in WA). l Morgan and Debbie Sounness from Wellstead near Albany, WA use kikuyu to provide the base level nutrition for their superfine Merinos. l Kikuyu prevents wind erosion on their sandy paddocks. Super fine wool on kikuyu in WA EverGraze Proof Sites have demonstrated that, by putting the EverGraze principle of ‘Right Plant, Right Place, Right Purpose, Right Management’ into action, increases of up to 50 per cent in profitability can be achieved while improving environmental management. EverGraze is a national research and extension partnership between AWI, the Future Farm Industries CRC and Meat & Livestock Australia. It has been running for the past six years and aims to deliver more profitable livestock systems and improved catchment health from perennial pasture systems within the high rainfall zone of southern Australia. The next phase of the program focuses on education and extension of the on-farm messages to producers. AWI has committed additional funding of $231,150 to ensure more woolgrowers have access to the tools and resources from EverGraze. More information: l www.evergraze.com.au l Kate Sargeant, EverGraze Project Leader, 03 5761 1598, Kate.Sargeant@ dpi.vic.gov.au Kikuyu at Morgan’s Sounness’s property, showing the root system.