New Zealand farmers are becoming more aware of their role in mitigating climate change – taking up the challenge in a positive way to reduce the environmental impact of their business while remaining productive.
There’s also been a significant increase in the development of farm management tools to help farmers with one of their key challenges – the need to lower greenhouse gas emissions from grazing livestock.
Unfortunately, grazing animals are highly inefficient when it comes to converting plant protein into milk or meat. Only about 25% of plant protein is turned into animal protein, with the rest excreted into the environment as methane, nitrous oxide or ammonia.
The risk is that farmers might see farm management plans that reduce their environmental impact as financially unsustainable and put them in the ‘too hard basket’. Yet one of the simplest tools to reduce nitrogen and methane emissions from livestock is already available – quality pasture. That’s where Germinal’s Aber High Sugar Grasses (HSG) come into their own.
Aber High Sugar Grass
Exclusive to Germinal, Aber High Sugar Grass is a climate-smart forage solution. The range of perennial ryegrass varieties is bred to produce more water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC) or sugar energy – delivering up to 17% more WSC than a conventional diploid ryegrass.
The high sugar content creates a better balance of energy and protein in the rumen, allowing the microbes responsible for the breakdown of forage to operate more efficiently. As a result, more grass protein is converted to meat and milk; with less protein wasted, and ammonia and methane emissions reduced.
Aber High Sugar Grass is a powerhouse forage crop that can make a significant contribution to the goal of farming practices becoming carbon zero. An AgResearch study showed 9% lower methane emissions from sheep that were fed Aber High Sugar Grass, compared with those fed conventional ryegrass varieties. Another trial found that rumen ammonia was significantly lower in cows grazing Aber HSG.
It’s not just field trials that have proven Aber’s success in New Zealand – farmers have also noticed an improvement.
Southland dairy farmer Jason Erb milks 850 cows on his 363-hectare property in Otahuti, near Winton. He’s been using Aber HSG and clovers on his farm for nearly 20 years as part of a permanent pasture mix.
“The thickness of the Germinal pasture is a key advantage, as it doesn’t go stalky,” says Jason. “This means the pasture quality is easier to maintain, and we achieve higher yields.
“Other grasses would get too stalky on a 30-day rotation, but the dense Germinal pasture manages to keep its quality despite the longer grazing period.”
The pasture’s persistence and quality has enabled Jason to lower his nitrogen application rate, without impacting production. Nitrogen is now only applied in extreme events to fill any genuine feed deficits, instead of relying on it all year.
You can read more about Jason’s story.