Hoping for a more normal season this year

THE 2018–19 season in Gippsland may have had a touch of unpredictability about it, but small rainfall events and opportunistic plantings of millet and summer crops have allowed some farmers to keep grass out of the rotation and locked up for silage

Operations manager Alister Noonan from Graham's Seeds said the past few seasons in Gippsland had been unusual, largely due to the lack of a defined autumn break, but silage conservation would be an invaluable tool for the district’s farmers as they moved forward and into next season.

“We had below average autumn breaking rain last year followed by greatly reduced spring rains, the season was only saved by decent falls in many areas around (Melbourne) cup day and again a few weeks later. A severe cold snap in 2017 during July resulted in widespread frosts and crop damage,” Mr Noonan said.

He said rainfall in south and west Gippsland has been reasonable this year, while dryland areas to the east of Traralgon were feeling the pinch.

“Far east Gippsland landholders are suffering the effects of a lack of east coast low rainfall events which have been missing for successive years now. Firmer than normal paddocks in most areas in late winter gave dairy farmers the opportunity for a higher number of forage crop plantings with forage barley being favoured — many farmers seizing the opportunity for a cheap home-grown crop to offset greatly increased hay and grain prices.”

Mr Noonan said farmers were hoping for a normal season in 2019.

“Good breaking rains mid to late March followed by a not too cold, not too wet winter is what we are looking for. If this carried on into a regulation spring with warmth and rain, growers across the district would have opportunity to reset, rebuild depleted fodder stocks and reduce usage of high-cost feed imports.

“We've had early inquiry already regarding options for quick home-grown fodder; being the cheapest option, it's great to see so many forward planners out there already thinking.”

Mr Noonan said new perennial rye-grasses Bingo (diploid) and Silver Bullet (tetraploid) trialled on dairy farms at Lardner, Fish Creek and Labertouche had shown great performance in tough red hill soils and soil types, with historically lower pest pressure where top-end novel endophyte varieties may not fit the budget.

Mr Noonan said while there may be seed shortage rumours, he was expecting most varieties to be in good supply.

“As always the team at Graham's Seeds team are more than capable of helping farmers select suitable alternative options. Any farmers with concerns about supply are encouraged to get in touch early in the season.’’