For spring or autumn sowing
Hobson Forage Rape; a reliable and cheap feed source for the summer and autumn
Summer is a critical time in pasture production systems due to limited amount of rainfall. Grasses have a bunch root system with most of their roots growing close to the soil surface. This area dries out in summer limiting the growth of the grasses. Species with a tap root or bulb can extract water lower down the soil profile. Forage brassicas are a reliable feed source over the summer period when grasses are not growing.
The most common forage brassicas are forage rapes (and their hybrids) and forage turnips. Forage brassicas can be used to create a feed bank if a late autumn break means that grasses will not generate any feed until winter. Forage rapes are ideal for this situation. The good manager can have the benefit of summer grazing and then close them up for an autumn grazing.
Figure 1: Forage brassica trial at Yambuk (South West Victoria) 2008/09 season (Sown 24/10/08)
Hobson rape is a pure forage rape with fast growth to first grazing between weeks 10-12. Other hybrid forage types such as Winfred and Pasja claim to have a quicker first grazing than straight forage rape types but this data shows that this is not the case.
Late rainfall in November 08 helped Hobson achieve high DM yields in the first harvest in January 09. The summer was then hot and dry with limited opportunities for growth. This was made up for in autumn DM production by the forage brassicas. Hobson produced another 5 tonnes of DM in autumn, giving a total of 13 tonnes of DM produce overall. Over this period of 7 months under trying conditions Hobson was able to produce as much DM as a perennial ryegrass would have over the year.
For farmers sowing their forage brassicas late (e.g. December) or sowing after a summer storm it may be advisable to sow Hobson with some Japanese millet. Japanese millet is a tropical forage grass that can survive with minimal amount of rain and can be grazed at any height as it doesn’t have the acid problem that sorghum can have. Millet can provide valuable fast growing forage from January through to May. Millet will tolerate the dry & the heat and respond to summer rain.