Kale and herb mix improves ewe scanning rates
Since Blair Gallagher and his son Hamish, from Rangiatea Farm in Mid-Canterbury, introduced a new crop mix into their system, they have recorded increases in the scanning rates of their commercial flock of Perendale ewes.
The farm also runs three different sheep studs and finishes stock. The three studs, Perendale, Cheviot, and Beltex, all require different management and feeding systems. The Gallaghers worked closely with PGG Wrightson’s Peter McKnight and Technical Field Representative Dan Copland to find the best systems for each of their studs.
Being aware of farmers in North Canterbury having success when sowing a brassica and herb mix during the dry summers, Blair decided to discuss suitable options with Peter.
“He suggested we sow SovGold kale at 4.5 kg per ha with Ecotain® environmental plantain at around 4 kg per ha,” says Hamish. “Our aim was to provide a high-quality crop for our commercial mob of Perendale ewes to increase their body condition score before the ram went out for mating. We achieved that and more.”
SovGold kale is a modern New Zealand-bred kale with good stem and leaf quality. Well suited to conditions on Rangiatea Farm, the Gallaghers sowed the crop later in the season to control its height for better utilisation by the sheep. SovGold kale can be undersown with Ecotain environmental plantain, a herb with a fibrous root system, to help extend the shoulders of the season, adding resilience to the crop. The mix also helps maintain topsoil, while the kale is grazed over winter.
“Peter and Dan have helped us a lot with making the changes to our cropping system and the agronomy advice from both has been valuable. When we mentioned to Pete that we were looking for a more flexible option, he suggested we plant SovGold and Ecotain as a mix. This has been a game changer, allowing us to use this crop several different ways depending on how the weather and the season goes. Since using Ecotain in these paddocks, we have not seen any soil erosion or washouts during wet weather while the crop is being grazed.”
Hamish continues, “Our pregnancy scanning rates in our commercial Perendale mob were typically between 175 to 180 percent. Since using SovGold and Ecotain they have increased to 203 percent in the first year, 211 percent in the second, and 209 percent this last year.”
The team at Rangiatea Farm put 1,500 Perendale ewes onto the SovGold and Ecotain paddocks for the month of May and often put their dry hoggets on the Ecotain too, with what crop is remaining in the paddocks over the winter. They then spray for weeds. Following Peter and Dan’s advice, the team then direct drill grass and clover into the Ecotain plantain the following spring.
Learn how SovGold kale and Ecotain environmental plantain could fit into your farming system by contacting your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative.