Your forage feed options this summer – Bettagraze and SSS
Date: 16 October 2015
This summer Pioneer is offering two cost-effective options for fast-growing high-yield cattle or sheep feed.
The already-proven hybrid, Pioneer® brand Bettagraze, is a cross between forage sorghum and sudan grass. In two different trials, it significantly out-performed competitor products by 11 - 29% in drymatter yield.
In addition, Pioneer® brand products is introducing the new forage sudan x sudan grass hybrid Pioneer® brand Super-Sweet Sudan (SSS), which is available in New Zealand for the first time in very limited quantities.
Bettagraze is a superb option especially for dairy farms in warmer districts. This hybrid delivers many desirable characteristics from both its parent plants, including high sugar content, disease-free leaves, excellent regrowth potential and high total yield. It can be grazed or harvested (at 80 - 100 cm in height) in as little as 35 to 45 days after planting, with further cuts or grazings taken every six to eight weeks throughout the summer. It also has delayed heading which makes it very suitable for silage or hay production.
SSS also has many beneficial traits including high tillerage (shoot generation) and fine stems. It is also highly palatable at all stages of its growth which makes it suitable not only for cattle but for sheep as well.
The demonstrated benefits of these summer hybrids include:
- Late establishment. Crops are generally established in late November to early December.
- Drought tolerance. Forage sorghum and sudan grass hybrids have excellent water use efficiency. Bettagraze is a larger seed which can be drilled into the soil moisture zone, allowing good establishment and growth even when the soil surface is dry.
- Good regrowth potential. In a warm season, the grower can expect to cut or graze a paddock three or four times.
- Versatility. Some summer crops can be grazed only when they are mature. However, both these hybrids can be grazed whenever required or harvested throughout the season for silage or hay.
The most important step in growing summer feed for stock is the planning and preparation. Firstly, identify the areas of your farm best suited for summer feed. Paddocks with good moisture-holding capacity, a pH between 5.5 and 7.0 and a medium to high fertility (phosphate over 20 ppm) is best.
The next step is to choose a proven hybrid. Pioneer® brand Bettagraze is a late-flowering hybrid with a high sugar content, fine stems and a high leaf to stem ratio. Under New Zealand growing conditions, Bettagraze out-yields Pacific Sprint and HSR Revolution.
The pasture should be sprayed-out with glyphosate and then grazed hard three to five days later. While some growers have had success with direct-drilling, cultivation prior to planting is the preferred establishment method for these crops. Cultivating warms up the soil allowing the crop to establish faster and out-compete weeds.
Plant these hybrids once the 5 cm soil temperature has reached 17oC and is rising (usually late November or early December). Bettagraze should be drilled into a fine, moist seedbed at 25 - 45 kg/ha to a depth of 3 – 5 cm. The ideal planting depth for SSS is 2.5 – 3.5 cm and the planting rate is 15 - 25 kg/ha. Crops planted at higher rates will have thinner stems and a higher yield potential. For good seed to soil contact, roll the paddock after planting.
When the crop is 80 -100 cm in height it can be harvested or grazed. For maximum re-growth potential, aim to leave a grazing residual of 15 cm. Back-fencing is essential to minimise plant damage and decrease the risk of crop toxicity.
The crop can also be cut using a mower-conditioner and wilted in the paddock for a maximum of 48 hours before it’s made into hay or silage.
All forage sorghum and sudan grass hybrids have the potential to accumulate nitrate and prussic acid when drought-stressed or frost-affected. If either of these has occurred then levels for those compounds should be checked. Crops should always be sprayed out before the onset of autumn frosts.