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Pallaton first rate for performance and persistence

Nigel Roberts, Elong Elong NSW

The delivery of exceptional liveweight gains is just one reason why Nigel Roberts keeps giving Pallaton a regular run in his mixed farming operation at Elong Elong, east of Dubbo NSW. Over the past two years, the premium raphanobrassica grazing crop has shown its worth across every measure – growth, quality, persistence, palatability and insect tolerance.

Nigel was approached to trial a five-hectare block of Pallaton in 2020. Since then, he’s grown several crops, including two 10 hectare paddocks last February and an 18 hectare paddock last August (2021).

Nigel’s mixed farming business is based around Merino sheep and winter cereals. He joins around 4,000 ewes a year and finishes the lambs on-farm to trade weights of 24 to 26 kg, as well as marketing up to 150 rams each year.

Pallaton is used to fill winter feed gaps and add to spring finishing options. Nigel finds it slots in well with the farm’s cropping rotations and improved pastures. He tracked the gross margins over the first couple of years of growing Pallaton and found the establishment costs including seed and fertiliser were usually covered after the first graze, just through liveweight gains.

“The lambs were punching along in excess of 300 grams per day,” he said. 

Not only does it grow a really big bulk of feed in a short period of time, but its persistence to grazing over 12 months is phenomenal. That’s the thing that’s impressed me the most, it can be grazed 10 plus times and still keeps coming back. I know a lot of people will probably baulk at the initial seed cost, but it’s a big output crop and the numbers do add up.”

Isaac Berry, DLF Seeds Product Development Manager reviewed Nigel’s results and was blown away. “Traditionally, when spring sown, growers can expect five or more grazings with a strong return on investment,” said Isaac.“Nigel is an experienced brassica grower who understands the grazing management and soil fertility required for high performance brassica crops. His exceptional results demonstrate the true potential and how well Pallaton can perform in excellent conditions with good management.”

Nigel’s most recent crop of Pallaton was sown in August 2021, direct drilled into an old lucerne stand after two fallow sprays. The 18-hectare paddock was sown with 110 kg/ha of DAP. Eight weeks later it was ready for grazing with leaves up to knee height and an estimated 3,500 to 4,000 kg/ha of dry matter.

It was stocked with Merino lambs at 55 to 65 DSE/ha for 25 days. They were then rotated straight on to the two older 10-hectare Pallaton crops.“It’s good to see how well the sheep can do when they get that consistent diet of quality feed,” Nigel said.

“The weight gains aren’t as high as I’d probably like this year, they’d be sitting at around 280 to 300 grams a day, but that’s mainly been driven by the very wet season we’re having.”

He said high stocking rates were essential to graze Pallaton effectively and maximise returns. “For the first three grazes, its recovery time is usually similar to the grazing time, so if you graze for three weeks, it’s ready again with a three week break, especially in spring,” he said.

“One thing I’ve found is that the harder Pallaton is grazed, the better it seems to respond, so I aim to graze it down to about 1,200 kg of dry matter or ankle high.”

Nigel applies 100 kg/ha of urea after the first grazing and then 80-100 kg/ha three or four times over the year. “It does take a lot of feeding because you’re removing a large quantity of nutrients with every grazing,” he said.

“That said, most of my Pallaton crops have kept producing for a minimum of 12 months and they would have been grazed 10 plus times, so that’s a big benefit.” Nigel added that Pallaton seems to handle the heat better than other brassica type crops.

“Before Pallaton, it wasn’t profitable to grow brassicas through the summer months here because of heat stress and insect pressure,” he said.

As well as reduced insect pressure, he added that growing Pallaton opened up a wider range of chemical options compared with other forage brassicas, including being able to use Kamba herbicide for smaller broadleaf weeds. 

He said having Pallaton available for grazing was also reducing the pressure on improved pastures and lucerne in the early spring months. “I use a fair bit of grazing canola as well and Pallaton is similar quality-wise, but unlike the canola, which is locked up in July, it’s available through winter and spring,” he said.

He added that Pallaton could be left for longer without losing its quality. 

“If we don’t need to utilise it, we can wait and it might get up to 4,500 kg/ha of dry matter without any drop in protein or ME,” he said.

“It just gives so much flexibility in terms of grazing.” And the lambs aren’t complaining either.

“When you put a mob of lambs on to Pallaton, they hoof straight into it,” he said. 

“It doesn’t take them three or four days to start having a nibble at it. In fact, you could put Pallaton in your own salads and you wouldn’t know the difference – it does have a bit of a sweetness to it,” concludes Nigel

Isaac Berry added that Pallaton was bred specifically for grazing.“Pallaton’s fit into the regions growing dual purpose canola looks very promising, and it is complementary to these mixed cropping systems,” he said.

“These growers have the skills and knowledge to grow a crop like Pallaton, and we can help them build their grazing management knowledge.”

Pallaton is a great option for experienced brassica growers to increase their liveweight production per hectare. To find out more about growing Pallaton for grazing, contact your local DLF Seeds Sales Agronomist.

Pallaton is available through accredited retailers only and is sold at 8kg/ha.