Kikuyu in winter and lambing results

There's a view that kikuyu goes dormant in winter. Not here it doesn't. If you look around our district in the paddocks that have kikuyu, it is not contributing too much to the total biomass at the moment. However, it doesn't have to be like that.

The problem is kikuyu is not being fed and most paddocks are still too acidic. It does like hotter temperatures and much more sunlight that we get here in winter, however, it will grow well through winter. Have a look at the photos below. This is Echo paddock and is another week away from being grazed in the rotation. It should already have been grazed of course, but we don't have enough sheep to keep it down. If it continues, mid-July onwards is going to create some headaches unless we get more sheep. No, I won't be cutting hay or silage. I'd rather turn it into meat this year.

The paddocks are full of ryegrass and there is clover underneath, but notice the bulk of the pasture is still kikuyu. By July it should be switching to mostly ryegrass contributing the bulk of the pasture, however, probably by only a little bit. The kikuyu is likely to still be 40-50% of the total bulk.

So, what's different to other kikuyu paddocks in the district? Why does our kikuyu still think it is spring? Firstly, remember that kikuyu does not like winter. If it is growing in any conditions it does not like, it will be more prone to other stresses, like soil acidity. I would say that is the main difference between our kikuyu and others. We have invested heavily into lime and the soil pH will keep improving in the coming years as the lime does its thing down deeper.

But there is one other important factor, and I mentioned it in earlier blogs. It is not standard practice yet in Western Australia, but it will be soon, and that is to feed the pastures in late April / early May to boost the protein and biomass leading into winter (June and July). Well fed kikuyu will thrive through winter. Hungry kikuyu will not. Hungry kikuyu will be yellow and contribute very little to the biomass. Kikuyu loves nitrogen more than any other grass species I have seen. More than corn/maize !! And far more than cereals and ryegrass.

On another matter, we had some encouraging scanning results last week. In our mob of 1600+ yellow tag (2021 born) ewe lambs, which included ~350 mixed aged ewes that were scanned dry in their previous joining with rams. 95.7% of them were in lamb this time. The other 1200+ were late born (late Oct to early Dec 2021) yellow tag ewe lambs. So these were only five to four months old when they were joined with rams on 21st March 2022. Far too early and I was not expecting many of them to end up in lamb.

Fortunately, they grew very well and 66% of them are now scanned in lamb and are due to start lambing in late August. Of the ones not in lamb (~420), they averaged 40kg liveweight which would be the main reason why they were not in lamb. I am shocked that so many did get into lamb though. They were too small when we put the rams in, but their growing quickly seems to have paid dividends.

We drafted off those <35kg to sell (150 of them) as they are not likely to be large enough when we want to put rams back in the near future. We were offered such a great price though for all the dry ewe lambs, we sold all of them yesterday. This is great for cashflow, but it means we are down 272 ewes which we wanted to help us build our numbers up.

To counteract that, we just had our best lamb marking percentage so far in our short history. 123%. That is not great of course and is well below my target of 150%, but remember these ewes have given birth twice in 12-14 months, and going forward, they will be lambing again this spring. 120% x 2 is a pretty good percentage on an annual basis. Still a long way to go, but the better genetics, pastures and management are growing us in the right direction.

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