|Farm location:||Gogango, Qld|
|Pioneer® brand hybrids grown:||Pioneer® brand Super Sweet Sudan|
Although he has been a long-term grower of forage crops on the property he’s managed in Central Queensland for 40 years, Kelvin Howkins says his current main variety is the best one yet.
Kelvin Howkins is the manager of ‘Cedar Creek’ at Gogango, west of Rockhampton, which is mainly a beef cattle property.
Having grown a number of varieties over the years, four season ago he was looking for a thinner-stemmed forage crop, and was recommended to grow Pioneer® brand SSS forage sorghum-sudan hybrid, which has been a great success.
“I really want something that's got a thin stalk so that when you mow it, it's dry in a few days, you're not a week drying it, which can lead you into trouble with storms and rain,” Mr Howkins explains.
“The SSS has got all the characteristics that I need, it's got a fine stalk and if you plant it a little bit thicker than normal, you'll get that stalk down even thinner and it returns really, really well.
“Other varieties used to get trampled from raking and working the hay, but we don't have that problem with the SSS - you'll still flatten it down where you're running over it but it bucks back and regrows.”
Another strong characteristic of the SSS is how quickly it grows, which works well with Mr Howkins’ system.
“Normally I plant at the end of August and I can have three cuts of SSS in the shed by Christmas,” he says.
Last summer Mr Howkins grew 3.2-hectares of irrigated SSS on one side of a creek, and the same amount of an alternate variety, also irrigated, on the other side of the watercourse.
“The first cut of SSS, which we made into 25kg square bales, produced 2,500 square bales, while the other variety produced 1,260 bales,” he explains.
Mr Howkins says it’s critical that the SSS receives enough urea – he applies 77kg per hectare at planting and an additional 77kg per hectare after the first cut.
It’s a recipe that has produced top quality hay, which is reflected in the performance of cattle consuming it.
“The cattle do really well, they love it - one fellow started buying the SSS from me last year and the stems were so fine he was convinced I had sold him oats,” Mr Howkins says.
“He was feeding little drought-stricken weaners, and he said they were eating every bit of it.”
A dry 2016/17 summer meant the Howkins didn’t plant his SSS until January 2017, however he says the crop has made up ground quickly.
“A month later it was up to my shoulders, probably four foot high and looked absolutely beautiful - lush and green.
“We’ve got about 650 breeders here, and we find our weaners do really, really well on SSS - better than anything else, even better than grassy lucerne.
“People that buy it off me say the same thing, it's the best forage hay they've ever had, it's really good - it's the number one hay we’ve ever grown, so I'll keep going with it,” Mr Howkins says.
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