Chicory curtails summer feed gap

Dryland perennial thrives through dry times


Dairy
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CHICORY is thriving at Parawa, helping the Williams family get their dairy cows through the long, hot summer.

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CHICORY is thriving at Parawa, helping the Williams family get their dairy cows through the long, hot summer.

Angus Williams said they began growing the tap-rooted perennial herb about five years ago after successful FP Ag trials on their dryland farm.

“Where people may use lucerne, chicory is more suited to our acid, ironstone soils,” he said.

“When our permanent pasture paddocks get a bit old and weedy, we put chicory in, to help us manage weeds and add to our productive season.”

Past trials in the district have shown chicory responds well to summer rains to provide out-of-season feed and grows a comparable amount of feed (5 tonnes to 7t of dry matter a year) to other dryland pasture types.

It also competes well against summer broadleaf weeds and can re-establish for up to four years.

The Williams family sow chicory in spring and graze it a few times during summer, depending on rainfall.

“Chicory has become very important in our feed program to help fill the summer feed gap,” Mr Williams said.

“We continue to grow more every year.”

The 600-hectare Williams Family Dairy comprises about 700 milkers, mainly Holsteins with some crossbreds, plus young stock.

Mr Williams said they had been lucky this season because while it had been drier at Parawa, their paddocks were still very productive.

“We received about 200mm less rain than average, but still had normal yields for our hay and silage, mainly oats, and grass production has been good,” he said.

Mr Williams said growing a number of different silage crops had been beneficial, instead of relying on pastures alone.

“We have had a few timely summer rains which has kept everything green until now,” he said.

“We would have normally had to source hay by now, which has been expensive and hard to get.

“We should have enough silage up our sleeve to get us through to the break, but if we don’t get a normal opening to the season, it could become a problem.

Saving on feed costs will become critical in the next few months as hay and fodder supplies continue to dwindle with the dry conditions.

“If we have to start buying hay and grain, we may end up cutting production back a bit, depending on the economics,” he said.

Mr Williams said processors should be starting to take note, as the high cost of feed and other costs like electicity could result in more dairyfarmers leaving the industry.

“The buyers of milk should recognise that we are not going to be able to produce at the same rates as we currently are if they keep paying the bare minimum for our milk,” he said.

DAIRY DUTIES SHARED

THE Williams Family Dairy at Parawa has been sharefarmed the past two years, following Angus Williams taking a step back from the day-to-day activities to undergo cancer treatment.

Mr Williams and partner Katrina McCullough still oversee the operation, while the two dairies on-farm are sharefarmed by Bill Thredgold and Jason Steinborne, who manage the milking of cows and day-to-day activities with assistance from seasonal workers.

The milk is sold to Beston Foods, with the family changing from Murray Goulburn two years ago following the price clawback fiasco.

Mr Williams said Beston had been “good to deal with in comparison”. 

“But we still have to constantly look at where we can value-add because the milk price is not sustainable,” he said.

“Whether it’s focusing on end-users closer to home or achieving better prices through a bargaining group, we have to look beyond just milk production to grow our business.”

They also sell steers and older cows as beef, while up to 100 heifers are sent export, to help pay the bills.

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