DUAL purpose canola has the potential to fill the winter feed gap, according to research from Charles Sturt University’s Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation.
CSU School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences Dr Jeff McCormick said Dual purpose canola was something for farmers to consider insowing programs this autumn.
“Canola forage has high metabolisable energy and crude protein so has the potential to deliver high live weight gains in cattle,” Dr McCormick said.
“But there can be animal health issues for cattle grazing canola crops including nitrate toxicity, polioencephomalacia (PEM) due to high sulphur levels, and bloat.
“Traditional thinking is to introduce cattle gradually to the crop to allow their rumen microflora time to adjust, but Australian farmers do not tend to have the time to move cattle on and off a paddock over a long adaptation period. Our research tried to determine what was a minimum requirement for an adaptation period was.”
The grazing trial of Angus heifers was carried out by CSU Bachelor of Agricultural Science Honours student Mr John Paulet in July 2018 and supervised by Dr McCormick and Dr Shawn McGrath from the CSU School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences.
The trial examined four adaption techniques including immediate introduction to the crop and four- and seven-day periods of gradual adjustment.
“The heifers achieved average daily weight gains of 1.75 kg per day for the period of the experiment with minimal animal health issues across all treatments,” Dr McCormick said.
“The research found a lag phase in the growth of cattle in the first week after being introduced to the crop, regardless of the adaption method. But following adaptation the daily growth rate commonly exceeded 2 kg per day, indicating that canola needs to be grazed for at least a month to achieve maximum benefits.”
Dr McCormick said there’s significant potential for grazing canola if it is well managed and he has these tips for introducing cattle to the crop.
The project was supported by a 2017 Graham Centre Research Centre Fellowship, a program to increase research capacity by funding travel, conferences and workshops, publication costs and to provide teaching support.
Mr Paulet was jointly awarded the Agricultural Science Medal when he graduated in December 2018.