FOR prime lamb producer Michael Frawley, combating fat-hen weed has proved an unfortunate road block to maximising productivity and profitability – until now.
Michael and his wife, Jo, operate 280 hectares over three locations at Bungaree, near Ballarat in Victoria.
In addition to their prime lamb enterprise, they grow canola, wheat, barley and pyrethrum, while they also establish lucerne and chicory as well as rape and turnip forage brassica crops for the lambs.
Michael sources the lambs from Bendigo markets from September and turns off 4000-5000 annually. They have achieved prices up to $208 per head.
“We are going out of pastures a bit to lucerne and chicory, which responds well to water and has helped us turn over 30 per cent more lambs,’’ said Michael, whose family previously grew potatoes in the area.
“The nitrogen from the lucerne promotes the chicory and we don’t get red gut problems from the lucerne.
“The chicory breaks down quickly. It provides good quality feed to finish the lambs and we add some hay for fibre too.’’
Specially selected rape and turnip varieties also offer good palatability.
Spring sowings on their red volcanic loams are staggered from mid-September, allowing lambs to be finished in 10-12 weeks. Lamb sales to abattoirs commence after Christmas and continue through to July.
“We need to put 10-12 kilograms deadweight on the lambs. They have to put on 1kg per week. We buy them at 18-20kg deadweight and they kill out at 30kg plus. Some can be 36kg and out to 40kg,’’ Michael said.
He said tackling the fat-hen weed in the summer crops had been a major bugbear.
“Our only herbicide option has been trifluralin. We’ve had no in-crop control.’’
“We’ve had to try something, because the fat-hen can be as thick as the hair on your head.
“Farmers used to bang in a crop for summer and if it worked – good, but we now want to manage them like a crop.’’
Last year, in conjunction with Creswick CRT store, Davies and Rose Rural and Hardware, the Frawleys hosted a trial of the newly released Dow AgroSciences broadleaf herbicide, ForageMax, in a 6.5ha paddock sown to turnip at the end of September.
Containing two powerful active ingredients, arylex and aminopyralid, ForageMax is also registered for use on rape and in addition to fat-hen, it effectively controls a range of other broadleaf weeds including capeweed, cleavers, deadnettle, fumitory, amaranths, marshmallow and thistles.
It has a single low application rate of 100 mL/ha and is best applied early in the crop (4-8 leaf stage). It is most effective on small, actively growing weeds (2-6 true leaves) that are not stressed by drought, frost, insect or disease pressure.
ForageMax is also rainfast within three hours, has a short grazing withholding period of 14 days and can be tank-mixed with a number of insecticides, grass herbicides and other inputs.
In the turnip on the Frawley’s property, a bad infestation of Diamondback moth prompted them to include Success™ Neo insecticide with the ForageMax application.
Michael said he could see the herbicide’s effectiveness against the fat-hen the next day.
“It saved the paddock – we were very pleased.’’
“It was going to be our worst paddock; we wouldn’t have got much off it. It changed it from being a problem crop to one of our best crops. It would have been an 8-10 tonne (per hectare) crop – and if it was rape it would have been a great crop.
“The ForageMax also suppressed a bit of radish and we had some self-sown spuds, which are a pest too, and it rolled them.’’
The Frawleys then successfully rotationally strip grazed the paddock.
“This herbicide is a major game changer because we have never had this option,’’ Michael said.
A 4-month plantback period for winter cereals and brassica crops following application of ForageMax allowed the paddock to be sown to wheat this year. The plantback period for more sensitive crops is 12 months.
Michael said this was an advantage compared with trifluralin, which had a plantback period of five years for poppies. Previously due to this, the Frawleys had to switch to applying pendimethalin.
Meanwhile, other trials and demonstrations of ForageMax conducted since 2012 have also consistently shown significant increases in brassica dry matter production, allowing more frequent and higher quality grazing.
For further information on ForageMax, growers can contact their local CRT store.