By Petrus van Rooyen, product manager forage crops, Pannar Seed
Ryegrass is distinguished from other forage crops by the type of livestock that utilises it. The input costs for ryegrass production are relatively high. It is well fertilised and usually planted under irrigation to unlock its genetic potential. To recoup the high input costs, pastures must be utilised by high-producing animals rather than breeding animals, as it is not economical.
Grazing and carrying capacity
Ryegrass usually stays green through the winter, is winter active and frost tolerant. Lambs born in autumn can be kept with the ewes on irrigated ryegrass. When the lambs reach 18kg live weight, the ewes are removed. The lambs remain on the ryegrass and receive supplementary feed until they reach a marketable weight of around 40kg. Creep feed should significantly shorten the period from weaning to marketing.
Lambs born in autumn can be kept with the ewes on irrigated ryegrass.
The norm for ewes is 20 to 30 ewes with lambs per hectare – usually 30 lambs per hectare. However, feed production in mid-winter (from June to July) can be a limiting factor on ryegrass, as production usually decreases before picking up again in August. After the lambs have been marketed, the ewes can re-utilise the ryegrass before the rams are brought in for mating.
Pannar markets an Italian and a Westerwold type of annual ryegrass – Sukari and Zoom. Sukari is a diploid Italian type with a high dry matter (DM) production potential and high sugar content. It produces outstanding spring and autumn production. Zoom is a tetraploid Westerwold type that is established in early autumn to produce maximum yields from mid-winter to October.
However, it is important to distinguish between the Italian and Westerwold ryegrass species to ensure the correct type is planted.
Westerwold versus Italian
Westerwold ryegrass responds to daylight length and goes into seed production in early summer – it is a true annual crop. Westerwold types should therefore be planted in early autumn from February to March. Italian ryegrass needs a cold shock (vernalisation period) before it will go into seed production.
Italian types can be planted during autumn from February to March, or during spring from August to September. When planted early in spring, it can provide grazing for 18 months in certain areas. Westerwold types produce better yields in midwinter, while the Italian types produce better later in spring.
For autumn plantings, the best economic benefits are obtained by planting as early as possible. Young seedlings must be protected during early planting, by irrigating them lightly every two to three days. Continue with light irrigation until the roots are well developed.
Sukari is an Italian type developed by the Cedara Animal Production Institute of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC). It has a high sugar content, late flowering date, produces a high DM content and produces well in winter. Sukari also fills the summer/early autumn gaps that are usually experienced in a fodder-flow programme. It is a diploid Italian ryegrass with good tolerance to heat stress and soil acidity.
With good management, Sukari can be utilised for a long period (until the following autumn). If Italian ryegrass is planted in early August under irrigation, it must be kept moist throughout summer. In January this ryegrass can be lightly grazed. If the pasture is saved during the hot summer months, it should grow out in autumn and provide forage until spring. The same applies to perennial ryegrass during the summer months.
Zoom is a tetraploid Westerwold type that is established in early autumn to produce maximum yields from mid-winter to October. Zoom produces exceptionally high yields of very palatable forage. This Westerwold annual ryegrass has been bred for outstanding cool-season performance as a specialist winter forage.
It flowers later than the average Westerwold type cultivars. Zoom offers the benefit of exceptional autumn, winter and spring forage production. It establishes quickly and has a rapid regrowth capacity. It also has high metabolisable energy and digestibility. Zoom stools very well and has good disease tolerance.
For more information, contact Petrus van Rooyen on 082 822 6438 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, visit www.pannar.com or speak with a Pannar sales representative.
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