In 2012 Mark and Narelle planned to put the tank paddock (10 hectares) into lucerne. The area is difficult to access with the milking herd and it would benefit the business to have a perennial and persistent pasture that could be both grazed and conserved.
The paddock was sown in October (a little later than planned) and had an excellent germination. Dry conditions for the majority of the following period have tested the crop and its persistence. The next field day will give a good comparison to the current situation.
The establishment costs of lucerne are higher than grass-based perennials but will hopefully give them better feed in late-spring and autumn. The costs are fixed and we will only able to measure the success or failure in the coming years when dry matter yields are assessed.
The costs are as follows:
|Super Moly Spread||0.2||$500.00||/T||$1,000.00|
|Cultivation x 2||2||$100.00||/ha||$2,000.00|
|Seed Sardi 7||15||$10.00||/kg||$1,500.00|
Comparative Perennial Pasture
Note: Comparative maintenance costs for fertilisers, sprays and operational expenses should be very similar.
If both persist for four years and each year 5 tonnes/hectare is utilised, the capital cost for lucerne is $209/ hectare/year or $42/tonne dry matter. For perennial pasture this is $110/hectare/year or $22/ tonne dry matter.
Using an annual variable cost of $300/hectare/year or $60/tonne dry matter the total cost of lucerne is $102/ tonne DM and for perennial pasture $82/ tonne DM of very high quality direct harvest feed.
On a straight comparison you might assume lucerne is $20/ tonne more expensive. However, it is important to consider the time of the year the feed is being produced. Lucerne has the potential to grow good quality feed over the hotter months when other dryland feed may be short. Lucerne also has the potential to respond with higher growth rates to summer rainfall. Depending on aluminium levels in the soil, lucerne should in theory also persist longer than some perennial pastures.