Location: Bringalily, Qld
Enterprise: Grain and beef
Producer: John and Sue Moffatt
Soil type: Dark brown clay to loam
Pasture type: Improved and native pastures; leucaena
Leaucaena gives Queensland beef producers John and Sue Moffatt a reliable sources of quality summer forage.
The Moffatts run a 1,330ha mixed farming operation “Orana Downs”, in the Bringalilly region outside Millmerran. They crop 445ha and use the remainder for grazing, including 200ha of improved pastures. Orana Downs runs 150 breeders.
John and Sue aim to grow out their steers on leucaena to 500kg for the local feed-on market and sell cull heifers as yearlings at 360–400kg lwt.
Selecting a suitable site
The Moffatts have planted 100ha of leucaena on previously cropped land, including 80ha of Tarramba and Cunningham cultivars and 20ha of Wondergraze, at a cost of $125/ha. Most has been planted on 8m row spacings in hilly Brigalow country.
“We did our first planting in January 2008, and then another in early March 2009,” John said. “We selected a site that was 1,300 feet (400m) above sea level so that we could avoid the worst of the frosts. Most of it has gone through three winters now and it hasn’t lost its leaf, so we’re very happy as far as its avoidance of severe frosts is concerned.”
Reaping the benefits
John said the leucaena planting provided guaranteed, high quality feed source from October through to early April.
“The biggest benefit of the established leucaena has been that it has given us a sustained feed source as opposed to growing forage sorghum in summer, which is never guaranteed,” he said. “We have found we now have feed earlier in spring than we used to.”
For the past five years, the Moffatts have hosted an MLA-funded Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) on their property to determine whether leucaena is a suitable pasture option in southern Queensland. John said work undertaken as part of the PDS showed that over the 2010–11 growing season (November to June) steers on leucaena achieved an average live weight gain of 0.8kg/day, with some drafts gaining 1.3kg/day.
Managing the challenges
However, according to John, managing leucaena also came with some significant challenges, including weed control between rows; establishing grass pastures between rows; and monitoring any spread of leucaena plants outside the planted area.
“You need to keep the space between the rows free of weeds after planting until the plants reach 1m in height, so they aren’t competing for moisture and nutrients,” John said.
“As ours was old cultivation country, that proved very difficult and we had to cultivate between the rows to cut the weeds down. It’s also important that you graze the leucaena before it sets pods to prevent its spread into neighbouring paddocks.”
Case Study courtesy of MLA