By Alison Frischke and Dannielle Ick (BCG)
- Grazing crops early and/or lightly will generally not affect grain yields.
- Plant recovery is supported by having more green material remaining after grazing; the more the merrier!
- Early sown winter wheat can produce more biomass earlier in the season than spring wheat varieties.
Grazing a crop can be a risk to grain production when plants have limited growing season time and/or moisture to allow them to recover from grazing. Often a yield loss will be accepted as a fair trade for the feed value to the livestock enterprise, but careful grazing management can minimise it.
Grain & Graze 2 trials at Raywood in 2012 and Watchupga East 2013 (see BCG 2012 Livestock Research Results pp. 58-62 and BCG 2013 Season Research Results pp. 204-207) indicated that a crop can be safely grazed without yield penalty when a quantity of leafy material remains after grazing to aid crop recovery. This amount will vary with the
crop stage of growth, and grazing duration and intensity.
BCG, through the Grain & Graze 3 initiative, conducted a trial in 2014 to validate the effect of grazing intensity and growth stage on forage value and yield response of different wheat varieties, with sowing times suited to cultivar.
Trial results supported previous work which showed that if the crop is sown at the appropriate time, and grazed early, or lightly, as it approaches GS30, then it should recover and maintain grain production. However, the ability of the crop to recover depends on the time of grazing in the year and plant maturity, stored and in-season rainfall, and the intensity of grazing.