Article Summary:

Perennial pasture provides out of season forage and a way to overcome the summer feed gap. They reduce the supplementary feed over the summer and help finish the young stock earlier. Perennials have the potential of producing 1100 kg DM/ha over the summer with up to 70% dry matter digestibility. Learn with us how to overcome the summer feed gap with perennials!

Scorching summer heat is charring lands resulting in a decline in pasture productivity.

Traditional pastures that relied on annual grasses recorded a surplus in spring and adequate feed in winter. The surplus was cut either as hay or silaged and kept to be fed outside the growing season. There is another, not very traditional way to go. It’s going with perennials!

Various productive pastures like yours adopt perennials and smartly provide green pasture outside the annual pasture growing season and thus reduce supplementary feeding over the summer and upcoming autumn. It’s like hunting two birds with one stone :-)

To fill the summer/autumn feed gap, adopting perennial pastures is crucial. Perennial pastures have many feathers in their cap. If you are looking to extend the growing season, provide feed earlier than annuals, and grow past the spring and into summer, perennial pasture is your answer. Summer grasses flourish in response to summer rainfall and moisture.

Bonus Point: Not only did perennials overcome the summer feed gap, but also provide an opportunity to finish the young stock earlier and increase the stocking rate.

Today, we talk about perennials and how to use them to overcome the summer feed gap. We will take a thorough look at why perennials have the answer to the summer feed gap. Afterwards, we will provide a quick guide to various perennials and requirements for growing them for high yields. Following that, we will discuss some important tips for every flourishing farm management like yourself to make the most out of perennials. Let’s take the plunge!

Why perennials?

Let me state that again, perennials have many feathers in its cap. There are various advantages to adopting perennial pastures. Some as listed below;

  • Perennials like Kikuyu provides the dry matter of around 1100 kg DM/ha over the summer. This is due to Kikuyu’s deep root system, good response to rainfall, and capacity to provide more DM/mm of water.
  • They extend the growing season by yielding growth rates of more than 10 kg DM/ha.
  • With summer rainfall the DM yield can boost to 10-20 kg DM/ha.
  • Perennials like lucerne and chicory provide less feed as compared to Kikuyu. But they have higher dry matter digestibility of around 70% in summer and autumn and higher crude protein content. This is essential to sufficiently grow livestock out of season. It also enables farm management some flexibility to produce out of season livestock.
  • The dry matter yield of perennials is similar to annuals, at around 6 tonnes.

A quick and easy guide to summer-active perennials

The summary of Perennial grass species shows the summer growth rate and feed quality for various perennial grasses. These perennials require optimum rainfall/moisture to display their respective growth over the summer. In their preferred soil type, these perennial grass are the answer to overcoming the summer feed gap and meeting the pasture growth target effectively.

Grass Species Preferred Soil Type Required Rainfall (mm) Growth rate in summer Feed Quality
Lucerne Loamy, sandy > 350 Active Very High
Chicory Loamy, sandy > 450 Active Very High
Kikuyu sandy > 500 Very Active Good
Rhodes Grass sandy > 400 Very Active Good
Panic sandy > 500 Very Active Good
Tall Wheat Grass Loamy, sandy, clay > 400 Active Good
Phalaris Loamy, clay > 500 Dormant High
Tall fescues (summer active ) Loamy > 600 Very Active High

Wait, How do I know which perennials to choose for my pasture?

Every pasture is unique. Every pasture has its own unique growth targets, soil type, rainfall patterns, and farm management. That is why every farm must choose perennial grasses to meet owning to its growth targets.

If farm management is targeting out of season production, they ought to achieve summer perennial activity equal to that of winter annual activity. For instance, summer active species like Kikuyu, panic, lucerne, and chicory will provide fodder quality ranging from very high to good. They would respond well to summer rainfall and flourish.

Some important points to keep in mind

  1. If Kikuyu and Panic are provided with an appropriate amount of moisture, they yield moderate to high-quality feed.
  2. Rainfall is crucial in producing out of season feed. The quantity and quality of feed are determined by soil moisture.
  3. Many productive pastures like yours maintain a good annual component. In such pastures, grazing in late autumn allows the annuals to grow and maintain the ground cover.
  4. Summer active tall fescues show persistence and produce more feed as compared to annual pasture. It requires fertile loamy soil.
  5. Both summer-active tall fescues and phalaris are suitable for waterlogged areas having more than 550mm rainfall.
  6. Keep in mind phalaris is poisonous if not managed properly.
  7. Soil type is an important factor in determining which perennial to grow. The table above has listed the preferred soil for each perennial grass. Soil acidity, salinity, pH, lime content, waterlogging will affect the pasture output. It’s critical to ensure that chosen perennial falls under your unique pasture’s soil type.

Match the plant to the purpose

Every pasture outlines unique growth targets owning to their seasonal bottlenecks and soil constraints. It depends on the farm management what they need perennials for as different perennials will perform different roles.

For instance, if the farm’s requirement is to provide green feed outside the growing season, Kikuyu is the answer. Kikuyu will also reduce the need for supplemental feed. Its digestibility ranges between 55-70 %, so it will provide modest animal growth

Take the example of lucerne, it can provide out of season feed with 65-75 % digestibility and 15-25% crude protein.

Thus, lucerne is a good choice for farms looking to drive high animal weight gains and enhance pasture management.

This brings us to the end of the article. Until we meet again, Happy Summer!

- The Dedicated Team of, 2022-02-09