A DIPLOID long-rotation ryegrass from hardy North African germplasm that persists up to five years is giving many South East livestock producers more bang for their buck.
The past few years have seen a jump in the number of paddocks sown to annual and long-rotation ryegrass pastures for more high-quality feed to boost stocking rates.
Barberia is one of the varieties which has produced widespread success.
Naracoorte Seeds owner Jamie Tidy said their Barberia ryegrass sales jumped exponentially in the past four years. He has seen good results across a range of soil types - from black flats to lighter soils - with many producers now on their second or even third year of grazing.
Jamie said many varieties of annual ryegrass bred from New Zealand and European germplasm were not climatically suited to the region but the Morocco-bred Barberia was on a similar latitude to SA's Lower North.
"You can take northern cattle south but southern cattle struggle in the north - it is the same with pastures," he said.
"They (New Zealand and Europe) have cold, wet winters but only mild summers whereas we need something pretty tough. At best, Barberia must get through 10 or more 40-degree days."
Barberia's seed costs are similar to high-performance tetraploid annual ryegrasses which only last one grazing season.
"If you put Barberia in this year and only get one year's grazing, you are no worse off. But if you get two years out of it, you are miles in front," Jamie said.
Jamie says the advantage with long-rotation varieties such as Barberia are no annual sowing costs and bare paddocks over summer waiting for resowing with good pasture growth from the autumn break.
The only drawback he sees is the plants running to head slightly earlier - a survival mechanism - than other ryegrass varieties.
"It is definitely something to consider," he said.
"Many people with big paddocks want something which will last more than 20 years but it is an option to get off the annual sowing roundabout."
A Meat & Livestock Australia Producer Initiated Research & Demonstration trial being undertaken by the South East Prime Livestock Achievers has also highlighted the value of Barberia. In the first season of a four-year trial, the Barberia-based pasture produced a greater amount of dry matter than the other two pastures based either on Phalaris or a mixture of perennials including Fescue, Cocksfood and Phalaris. All three pastures were also sown with clover.
It is also performing in the paddocks for farmers such as Michael Schinckel from Kybybolite who has sown Barberia on his Mullana property for the second year in a row.
Michael says it is part of his overall farm plan to concentrate on establishing more annual and perennial grasses in his paddocks for his self-replacing composite ewe flock breeding prime lambs.
"We have good amounts of annual clovers but have lost many of our grasses by spraying-out barley grass to stop seeds in our lambs.
"We need to work on growing more grass, both annual and perennial ryegrasses. A paddock of pure clover can still feel like being in a drought."
Michael established a small area of Barberia in the middle of a 36ha paddock of Camel perennial ryegrass last year after running out of the Camel seed.
He says there has been a noticeable line between the two varieties in the paddock with more prolific growth from the Barberia.
*Full report in Stock Journal, June 30 issue, 2011.