Planting forage oats

Jul 30 2012 0 Comments Tags: Cheslyn Rise, hay, oats

After we brought in the sorghum hay that was growing on the property when we bought it, and had our soil test results, Farmer Pete spent several weekends (and several jerry cans of diesel) ploughing about 25 acres of the cultivation area in preparation for sowing oats.  Then we bought oat seed and organic fertiliser and tried to figure out how the old cultivator drill worked....


It wasn't as difficult as it looks, the seeds go in one compartment and the fertiliser goes in the other, and we had to set up the gears that run off the wheels to put out the right amount of seed and fertiliser.  This is where we got into trouble as I didn't know what fertiliser the rates were based on (more likely urea than our organic fertiliser!), so that involved a bit of trial and error.  We ordered the manual from plough book sales and of course it arrived AFTER we'd finished planting :)  I do recommend trying to get the manual for any old equipment that you buy, it really helps to figure out what is going on and recommends maintenance practices.

the old cultivator drill still works.....

Anyway, once we got that sorted out, we could sit back and watch the oats grow....


the oats sprouted after about 10 days

growing strongly after 6-8 weeks
Our oats are not growing as fast as the oats that we know of that other people have planted at the same time using "proper" fertiliser, however, they have strong roots and are doing ok.  One thing that we have noticed is that the oats planted in areas that were not recently cropped and fertilised are doing better than the oats planted where the sorghum was.  My guess is that the soil microbiology has started to recover in those areas that were not recently cropped, and so our organic fertiliser is being metabolised and is available to the oats. In the other area that was recently cropped, the microbiology is more likely to be reduced, and so the plants can't make use of the organic fertiliser.  I am convinced that we need to add microbes, and we do have a few ideas about how to do this.  I will explain more soon.

If you're wondering why we plant oats in winter.....

This is the grass on our property at the moment.  Most of it is tropical grass species that dry off and go dormant over winter, so they have very little feed value.

tropical grasses in winter

Compare this to the lovely green oats that thrive over winter, even through frost.

the oats in winter
This is why people plant oats, however, over the next couple of years we are hoping to improve our pasture with winter active species such as medics and lucerne, which will provide feed in our pastures over winter in future.  We are undecided whether the cultivate and crop method is better than making hay from permanent pasture, so we will continue to experiment, however a few of our cultivations areas are so far away from the hay shed, we think it might be a good idea to try permanent improved pasture for rotational grazing instead of hay.
 

We are also interested in zero-till and Yeoman ploughs, also the option of converting the cultivator drill and ploughs that we bought with the property, so plenty of research to be done.....

Do you plant forage crops?  What is your favourite?

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