Oats and sorghum combination hit weight-gain sweet spot
Combining new rust-resistant forage oat varieties with staged grazing of sweet forage sorghum is helping livestock producers hit the sweet spot of palatability and fibre for maximum liveweight gain, says an Elders advisor.
The sorghum and oats complemented each other, Elders Toowoomba technical services manager Maree Crawford said.
As oats matured, the impact of rust on their nutritional value could be significant, she said, so Elders had identified varieties with additional rust-resistance genes.
“With extra rust protection, the oats are also more palatable to the animal, they eat more, and they do well on it,” Ms Crawford said.
Three new varieties with superior energy levels that were maintained throughout the growing season emerged after trials involving 30 new varieties of forage oats across two sites in NSW and Queensland.
Most importantly, she said, the new varieties showed a lift in metabolizable energy (ME) of one percentage point, boosting the average ME from 9 to 10 per cent, with significant gains for livestock producers.
“Every 1 percentage point increase in energy equates to about 100 grams of daily liveweight gains dependent on class of stock,” Ms Crawford said.
“That can tip it over the 1.8-2 kilogram daily liveweight gain mark, which is exceptional.”
But Ms Crawford warned against treating any crop as a silver bullet. Instead, she said, Elders agronomists and nutritionists were creating a complete program to ensure livestock nutritional needs were met.
She said animals put straight onto forage oats risked vitamin deficiencies and scouring, due to the high moisture content of a fresh crop. One of the strategies the Elders advisors employed was to feed livestock on a sweet forage sorghum variety called Lantern before introducing them to the oats.
“Lantern acts as a bridging crop into the oats, increasing fibre intake, which gives you greater feed efficiency from the oats,” Ms Crawford said.
“Beef cattle diets lacking adequate fibre can damage the rumen wall. The effectiveness of fibre for supporting rumen health is positively related to particle size and fibre helps form the rumen mat that is essential for proper rumen function and nutrient digestion”
While ideal planting times varied around the country, Ms Crawford said graziers could plant and then graze a forage sorghum up to six months before the oats would be ready.
Once it was time for the oats to be grazed, livestock would first be given access to the sorghum stubble each day to consume rumen-buffering fibre.
Ms Crawford said Elders currently have three of the trial’s best performing oats, Graza 53, Boss and Graza 85 available.
“We’re offering tailored programs to suit different enterprises,” she said.
“Graza 85 is a full season, late maturing variety, Graza 53 is medium to late maturity and Boss is early to mid maturity and generally the first one you would plant.”
Both Graza 53 and Boss were tolerant to warm soils, Ms Crawford said.
Depending on the time of planting, she said the new oat varieties were suitable for areas with annual rainfall totals of 200 to 600 millimetres, provided there was a full moisture profile for establishment.
Contact your local Elders agronomist to discuss the best oats variety for you