Graziers scramble to plant fast forage before first frost

GrazAg Armidale agronomist Matt Foster said the past couple of weeks had been flat out as farmers plant oats, pasture and forage crops.
GrazAg Armidale agronomist Matt Foster said the past couple of weeks had been flat out as farmers plant oats, pasture and forage crops.

Rain has fallen just in time for Northern Tablelands graziers to finally get cracking on winter crops and pastures with only a relatively small growing window before the region is hit with the first frosts of the season.

GrazAg Armidale agronomist Matt Foster said the past couple of weeks had been flat out as farmers plant oats, pasture and forage crops.

“It’s really been a scramble to get organised and have enough seed available,” he told the Country Leader.

“There’s been a lot of demand for oat seed and rye grasses.”

The pressure is now on to try and grow a reasonable body of feed before the first frosts strike – often around Anzac Day.

“People really need fast growing feed as we are only about eight weeks away from the first frost,” Mr Foster said.

Popular choices included forage brassicas, oats, barley and turnips.

“A lot of people are planting a mix of oats and rye grass for quick and relatively cheap feed,” he said.

While reasonably widespread, the rain has also been patchy in the sense that some storms and rain events were extremely isolated.

For example, at Wollun near Walcha during a storm on March 4, 61mm was recorded on one farm. One neighbour received about 10mm and another recorded 70mm at the front of the farm and 90mm up the back, while a few kilometres away near Walcha Road there was 125mm. Woolbrook – where there’s a weather station – has recorded only 8.9mm up until last Thursday.

The Bureau of Meteorology reports that Armidale received 127mm for February (long term average 95.4mm) and 8.4mm up until March 8. Barraba had 43.5mm for February (average 76.3mm) and 15.2mm to March 8; Gunnedah 33.6mm for February (average 63.1mm) and 16.6mm.

Guyra recorded falls of 71.6mm in February (average 92.5mm) and 9.8mm; Glen Innes 114.4 for February (av 85.3mm) and 13.6 for March; Mungindi 114.6mm February (62.9mm av) 15.6 to March 8; Moree 108.6mm February (av 69.4mm) and 45.8mm (nearly making the March long term mean rainfall for the month of 53.5mm); and Inverell had 55.4mm in February (av 81.1mm) and 45.2mm to March 8.

Out at Collarenebri the bureau reported 27.8mm for February (av 56.2mm) and 10.8mm to last Thursday.

At Tamworth the rain was well below the long term mean of 70.5mm for February at 38.6mm and just 3.2mm this month. Quirindi has fared a little better with 42.2mm for February and 12.8mm this month.

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