A persistent alternative to perennial ryegrass - Elders Rural Services

A persistent alternative to perennial ryegrass

A growing number of graziers from the New England Tablelands to Victoria’s dairy country and across Australia are switching to Hummer tall fescue because it has shown to be more productive and persistent than perennial ryegrass.

Hummer handles the heat and provides a lot more high-quality feed for dairy, beef and sheep than ryegrass, according to Hamish Best, National Product Development Manager with AusWest – Stephen Pasture Seeds.

Hamish said Hummer had been bred for softer leaves and high tiller density, making it more palatable and far easier to manage than coarser type fescues.

“A deep-rooted perennial, Hummer tall fescue with MaxP® endophyte is highly productive and persistent summer-active perennial grass that is a great alternative to ryegrass, which can maintain its density and growing for longer under tough conditions.” he said.

“MaxP® is a novel tall fescue endophyte that improves the ability of tall fescue pastures to handle pest attack and moisture stress.

“MaxP endophyte is a fungus that lives in the grass that has no detrimental effects on sheep or cattle, but really drives the persistence of Hummer.

“In our trials, we are seeing a big difference in persistence between varieties treated with and without MaxP®.”

Hamish added that Hummer can tolerate heavy, wet and moderately saline soils, and is flexible for use in irrigated or dryland conditions.

In the New England, graziers are choosing Hummer because it responds well to moisture, producing a lot of high-quality feed over the spring and summer to take advantage of the summer-dominant rainfall pattern.

Hamish said feed quality was particularly important for heifers and steers to drive weight gains.

“Pastures sown with Hummer have much higher leaf to stem ratios, higher growth rates and higher feed quality which are great for fattening cattle,” he said.

“The drought in 2019 around the New England proved be a good test of pastures resown to Hummer in 2018. After the rain arrived in January 2020, those paddocks recovered to produce plenty of feed within six weeks.”

Hamish said this demonstrated the resilience and persistence of Hummer in drought conditions, out-performing ryegrass in the toughest circumstances.

In prime dairying country in Victoria, dairy farmers are also turning to Hummer tall fescue to provide better sustainability and persistence.

“Dairy farmers often find ryegrass pastures are often not robust enough to handle the rigours of extreme climatic conditions or the high stocking rates they need to maintain profitability,” Hamish said, adding that producers know it is costly to replant their pastures every year.

“Our field team is helping a growing number of dairy farmers who want dense pastures with good persistence that don’t need a truckload of fertiliser every month.”

“These newer release fescue varieties like Hummer are softer and more palatable for cows than the older style varieties that would often cut tongues when chewed.” Hamish said.

Not only does Hummer provide plenty of high-quality feed, but it can also be cut for silage to keep up with the growth.

It can also be mixed with other pasture species such as white clover to suit different conditions and soil types.

“Hummer is a versatile performer across a range of conditions,” Hamish said.

For more information about Hummer tall fescue, talk to your local Elders branch.

Article written by SPS for the Autumn 2021 edition of Seasons Magazine.

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