Lynda Gray

Pasja guarantees hogget lambing on a 1700-hectare sheep, deer and beef rolling to steep South Otago farm managed by Maurice and Renee Judson.

It’s high quality feed for 90 days, Maurice says.

“We know we can reliably graze ewe lambs and get them to 44kg liveweight by mating whereas we couldn’t guarantee that on grass.”

The crop is commonly fed for finishing lambs but for Maurice it’s reaping greater returns by producing well-grown replacement ewe lambs.

“We’ve decided to use it for the best of the best – our future capital stock.”

The Judsons, along with farm owner David Ivory are the 2019 Silver Fern Farms Plate to Pasture Award winners recognising suppliers who deliver quality stock, follow best management practices and farm with the needs and expectations of the end consumer in mind.

Their highly productive system is based on feeding high-quality legumes and crops which is where the pasja has come to the fore, providing a consistent and high energy crop over January and February.

Introduction of the multi-graze leafy turnip to the pasture rotation in 2014 came about following the search for a spring-sown forage crop to plug the gap between the swede crop and autumn-sowing of permanent pastures.

A local seed rep suggested pasja, a suggestion Maurice went with for a few reasons: it’s cheap to grow and can be established in a no-cultivation system and performs well in South Otago where there is generally enough summer rainfall to keep it growing.

This year’s 60ha is spread across 11 paddocks. It will be grazed by 3600 ewe lambs grazed at about 65/ha. They will be transitioned from late December and will be grazed over three rotations then gradually taken off the crop from mid-March.

The old swede paddocks were aerated and then worked to 75mm using a rotospike. The seed was drilled at 4kg/ha into a rolled seed bed.

The lambs are transitioned over a week to 10 days with ad-lib access to the grassy gully areas of the crop paddock. The Judsons have a policy of leaving generous grassy margins and gully areas in their crop paddocks to minimise soil damage and run-off.

On each round the lambs are moved on when there’s about a boot height (75-100mm).

“The height of the residual is important. If you leave too much it goes to stalk and you lose the quality.”

Ewe lambs get most of the crop although the tail-end of the works lambs are put on it towards the end of the third and final grazing. What’s left gets a light spray of Roundup at about 2litre/ha and then the permanent pasture is direct drilled by early April.

Pasja tips

  • Allow a week to 10 days to transition lambs to avoid scald, particularly on ears.
  • Don’t overgraze, aim to keep residual about boot height (75-100mm).

Easy as

Pasja is cheap to grow, working out at about $250/ha for seed and chemicals. It’s also fast and easy to establish, so what’s not to like about the leafy turnip crop?

Not a lot, Simon Walker, Advance Agriculture field rep says, so long as it’s not overstocked.

“For prime lamb finishing you should be looking at 50-70/ha and you need to be careful about not overgrazing it.”

In summer safe environments such as South Otago pasja can produce up to 10 tonnes/DM/ha over multiple grazings, typically three.

“It’s a high-yielding, high-quality feed that you can rely on when pasture is reducing in quality.”

However, to make it pay consideration needs to be given to the area needed to achieve the finished liveweights.

“You need a feed budget to work out how many the crop will support for the liveweights targeted. There’s no point sowing 4ha and overgrazing it with 400 lambs because you’ll wipe it out before they get to weight.”

He also warns about careful transitioning of lambs, particularly in dull overcast conditions that can lead to a build-up in nitrate levels and the ‘burning’ of stock ears.