Six hundred south-west Victorian dairy farmers have united on a survival quest and more are expected to join the fold.
“We have seen the denser Aber grass hold its own against the kikuyu, which usually starts in patches and moves out through a paddock,” Rodwell says.
“We are confident the Aber has a good chance of continuing to hold out and lasting for a good seven years, which is unheard of in this area because it’s hot in summer and can be waterlogged in winter.
“But the Aber grasses have handled everything that’s been thrown at it them on this farm.”
Rodwell, who has 150ha under pivot irrigation and a herd producing close to 1400kg milk solids per hectare, first tried AberDart three years ago when seeking a ryegrass that would “increase pasture persistency, compete strongly with kikuyu and improve the total quality of our pasture”.
Since then 30ha of AberMagic has been sown and another 25ha is planned for this autumn with a new trial to start that will test a shortcut method for re-establishing pasture.
Instead of multiple sprays of herbicide and repeated cultivation and cropping before ryegrass is resown where kikuyu has taken over, Rodwell is to spray a kikuyu paddock once before it is grazed clean and then disc-drilled with AberMagic seed.
For comparison, some paddocks will be sprayed twice before clean grazing and disc-drilling.
“It’s a shortcut that’s been tried in New Zealand, in Northland, with Aber grass because it’s dense growing. I am fairly confident it will work here,” he says.
Rodwell is also keen to convert more pasture from tetraploid (short-term) ryegrass varieties to long-term diploid varieties, particularly the AberHSGs (high sugar grasses) to improve pasture persistence and overall quality.
“The diploids suit our system better. They grow denser and contain more drymatter, which means there’s a lot more feed value in each mouthful. More feed means more milk,” Rodwell says.