Article Summary: We are not shy of singing the praises of ryegrass; in fact, we’ve got a whole website section devoted to it! The 2023 Australian Forage Value Index (FVI) has just been released, and the prognosis for Aussie-grown feed is bright. Why? Because we’ve got some of the world’s best quality forage. This is indicative of the report’s stellar results. This article also covers why we love ryegrass so much, why our cows do too, and the different varieties of ryegrass you might decide to use on your farm.

We are not shy of singing the praises of ryegrass; in fact, we’ve got a whole website section devoted to it! It’s not only the most prevalent and popular of all grazing grasses grown in the northern and southern hemispheres, but it’s official—Australian-grown ryegrass is officially the best! (We reckon).

Thanks to the 2023 Australian Forage Value Index (FVI), base AR37 tetraploid perennial rye-grass from DLF Seeds has scored highest, according to its’ economic value performance by its dry matter performance. The results were outstanding and indicative of the world-leading quality of Australian-grown grasses.

The independent assessment included grasses from key dairy regions in southeast Australia, including Gippsland, southwest Victoria, northern Victoria and Tasmania.

It is hoped this will help farmers make better-informed decisions when choosing grasses for their farms by choosing the seeds that promote better milk productivity. And additionally, continue to have faith in Australia, paving the way for global agricultural standards.

What is the Forage Value Index exactly?

The FVI is a tool that farmers and producers can use to rank different varieties of ryegrass based on how much they can contribute to the overall profit of a farm. It was created in 2017 by Dairy Australia and has since been updated yearly with new results from varietal trials. It now includes annual and Italian ryegrass, as well as perennial ryegrass.

The FVI uses the latest research to give farmers and advisors an easy, accurate and independent assessment of how much economic value different ryegrass cultivars can offer under Australian conditions. By using the FVI rating system, farmers and advisors can make more informed decisions when choosing ryegrass cultivars that can help increase pasture productivity during key times of the year and ultimately improve farm profitability.

The data used to create the FVI comes from the Pasture Trial Network, a collaboration of seed companies, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and Dairy Australia. The FVI rating system is a wide-reaching, collaborative effort. The initiative has been developed with the input of Australian farmers, the seed industry and internationally recognised experts, in line with best ag and grazing practices worldwide. 

Why is ryegrass best for cows?

Because they meet the nutritional requirements of the dairy cow, high-quality ryegrass pastures remain the forage of choice for dairy and beef cows. 

As a dairy farmer, ensuring your cows are healthy and well-fed is the thing that gets you up in the morning. Ryegrass is incredibly popular among farmers in Australia and New Zealand, and for a good reason. Not only do cows love to eat it, but it also has numerous benefits that can lead to better outcomes for farmers.

So, what exactly is ryegrass? 

It's a cool-season grass that's well-suited to the climate in both Australia and New Zealand. It's highly palatable, meaning cows find it delicious and will likely eat more of it than other types of grass. In fact, studies have shown that cows will eat up to 30% more ryegrass than they will have other types of grass.

Why do cows love ryegrass so much? 

There are a few reasons. Firstly, it has a high protein content, which is important for supporting cow muscle growth and overall health. Ryegrass is highly digestible, meaning cows can extract more nutrients than other grass types. This means they can easily maintain their body condition and produce more milk.

But the benefits of ryegrass don't stop there. It's also incredibly easy to grow, meaning it can yield more forage per hectare than other types of grass. A real win-win. If you're looking to increase milk production fast or have limited land available for grazing, then ryegrass is your best bet.

Ryegrass is extremely hardy and can withstand a range of weather, particularly relevant for the times we live in with catastrophic weather events and climate change. It can also grow quickly, meaning it can recover quickly from grazing and be ready for grazing again quickly.

Are there different types of ryegrass found on Australian farms?

Yes. There are several different types of ryegrass found on Australian farms and used to feed livestock. Each ryegrass variety has its unique characteristics and uses. Perennial ryegrass is a popular choice for grazing and hay production, while Italian ryegrass and annual ryegrass are used as winter forage crops. Hybrid ryegrass combines the best of both worlds, while the weed varietal can be problematic if not managed properly.

In a nutshell:

  • Perennial Ryegrass: This grass is long-lasting and ideal for grazing and hay production. It's loved by cows because it's tasty and has a high yield. It is also hardy because it can withstand heavy grazing, extreme weather and high traffic conditions.

  • Italian Ryegrass: This short-lived grass is great for temporary pastures or winter forage. It produces high-quality forage, but it's not as persistent as other types of ryegrass.

  • Annual Ryegrass: This short-lived grass is often used as a winter forage crop. It's highly productive and provides great quality forage, but it doesn't last long and isn't suitable for grazing during the summer.

  • Hybrid Ryegrass: This type of ryegrass is a cross between perennial and Italian ryegrass, combining the Italian variety's productivity with the perennial's persistence. It's productive, high-quality, and suitable for grazing and hay production.

  • Ryegrass as a weed: Although ryegrass is often grown for forage, it can also be a problem weed that reduces crop yields. However, with proper management, it can still be used effectively as a forage crop.

Ryegrass is a great choice for Aussie and Kiwi dairy farmers. It’s highly palatable, digestible, and productive. This makes it an excellent choice for feeding cows and improving farming outcomes. By incorporating ryegrass into your feeding program, you can ensure that your cows are healthy and well-fed and continually produce high-quality milk.

Until we meet again, Happy Farming!

- The Dedicated Team of, 2023-03-23