Dairy Australia - Dairy information for Australian Dairy Farmers and the industry

Primary content

Find out how to manage your pasture, potential pests, and learn about our Forage Value Index rating system.

Pasture types

Read about forage species including annual and short term ryegrass, winter cereals and perennial legumes.
  • Copy Link Annual and short term rye grass

    Annual and short term ryegrass

    Annual ryegrass

    Annual ryegrass is usually chosen where post-spring growing conditions are expected to be limiting.

    The aim of using annual ryegrass is to maximise growth rates while there is still sufficient soil moisture.

    Similarly, annual ryegrass is often used when a combination of low summer rainfall and soil type don't allow a stand of perennial ryegrass to be maintained all year round.

    In this way, annual ryegrass is often the choice as a crop species to maximise pasture production for a less than year. It can be grown as either a pure stand or in combination with other crops, such as regrowth Brassicas.

    Short rotation ryegrass

    Short rotation ryegrass is usually chosen by dairy farmers under similar circumstances to annual ryegrass.

    Differences between annual ryegrass sand short rotation ryegrass

    The main differences are:

    • Short rotation ryegrass could be more suitable where there is potential for reasonable levels of growth from late spring/early summer rainfall.
    • Winter growth rates of short rotation ryegrass cultivars are normally not as good as annual ryegrass.
    • Both have the potential for significant growth through the first summer and well into the second and third years.

    More information

    Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for the use of annual and short rotation ryegrass on southern Australian dairy farms (PDF, 1MB)

    Contents: Annual ryegrass (ARG) is usually chosen where post-spring growing conditions are expected to be limiting. The aim of using ARG is to maximise growth rates while there is still sufficient soil moisture. Similarly, ARG is often used when a combination of low summer rainfall and soil type do not allow a stand of perennial ryegrass to be maintained all year round. In this way, ARG is often the choice as a crop species to maximise pasture production for a less than 12-month period. It can be grown as either a pure stand or in combination with other crops, such as regrowth Brassicas.

    Short rotation ryegrass is usually chosen by dairy farmers under similar circumstances to ARG. The main difference is that SRG could be more suitable where there is potential for reasonable levels of growth from late spring/early summer rainfall.

    Winter growth rates of SRG cultivars are normally not as good as ARG. However, they have the potential to provide significant growth through the first summer and well into the second and third years.

  • Copy Link Tall fescue

    Tall fescue

    Tall fescue has had limited adoption by Australian dairy farmers in the past because of older cultivars, and issues of low nutritive value and palatability. However, with new cultivars and a better understanding of its management, dairy farmers in southern Australian should reassess the potential of tall fescue.

    The 3030 Project undertook research into how new cultivars of summer-active tall fescue might complement perennial ryegrass in terms of production and adaptation to stressful environments.

    Key tips

    • Tall fescue has greater summer growth than perennial ryegrass, with at least similar nutritive value.
    • Grazing of tall fescue needs to be more strictly managed than perennial ryegrass to achieve its potential nutritive value.
    • It is better adapted to hot and dry conditions than perennial ryegrass due to its deeper root system and higher temperature ceiling. This gives it a potential role in low rainfall regions.
    • It can grow in less-fertile soils, is tolerant to a wider range of pH and waterlogging conditions, and can achieve higher persistency than perennial ryegrass.
    • There is a clear need for further research into tall fescue management, including responses to N fertiliser and grazing management.

    More information

    Tall fescue (PDF, 1.3MB)

    The role of tall fescue (Festuca arundinaceae) in southern Australian dairy systems was investigated as part of the 3030 Project. The objective was to identify how it could complement perennial ryegrass in terms of production and adaptation to stressful environments.

    The low rate of adoption of tall fescue by dairy farmers in the past has been associated with older cultivars and issues of low nutritive value and palatability. However, with new cultivars and a better understanding of its management, dairy farmers in southern Australian should re-assess its potential.

    This factsheet relates to new cultivars of summer-active tall fescue.

  • Copy Link Perennial legumes

    Perennial legumes

    Reduced soil moisture and higher temperature in summer not only cause a decline in the growth of perennial ryegrass but also reduce its nutritional value.

    Perennial legumes like red clover and lucerne are more adapted to grow under drought conditions than most perennial grasses. In these species, nutritional value is less affected in summer than perennial ryegrass.

    Benefits of feeding legumes compared to pure grass-based diets include:

    • Increased milk and milk solids production.
    • Reduced methane emissions.
    • More efficient nitrogen use.

    These responses are usually due to the higher DM intake of cows fed legumes and the higher nutritional value of the legumes.

    Grazing versatility

    Perennial legumes can be grown as a pure crop to be grazed through summer during part of the day, or sown as companion species of grasses.

    More information

    Perennial legumes: Lucerne, red and white clover (PDF, 1.4MB)

    This factsheet discusses some of the 3030 Project experiences with perennial legumes on plots, farmlets and partner farm studies, and highlights some key aspects of their potential role in dairy farm systems of southern Australia. It covers only the perennial legume species that have been used in 3030 Project studies: Lucerne (Medicago sativa), red clover (Trifolium pratense) and white clover (Trifolium repens).

    Lucerne is a drought-tolerant option to provide feed in summer and adapts well to grazing conditions under the right management.

    Red clover and white clover perform best when combined with perennial grasses or herbs to increase summer feed production and quality.

    All perennial legumes tend to increase nutritive value and milk production response of grass-based diets.

    Bloat risks are important and should be considered but they can be managed. Feed allocation is a key factor to reduce the risk.

    Lucerne, red clover and white clover all require soils with good fertility to perform and lucerne, in particular, requires well-drained soils.

Initiatives

Dairy Feed tools

Dairy Feed Tools is a complete feed management toolset for dairy farmers and managers. Feed planning, cost and resource management backed by Australian feed and pasture data to most accurately reflect the needs of your herd

Hay and grain reports

The hay and grain report is commissioned by Dairy Australia to provide an independent and timely assessment of hay and grain markets in each dairying region. The report is updated 40 weeks per year.

More Initiatives