The Business of Dairy

Fall Armyworm Impacts and the Feed That Gets Better With Time

March 01, 2022 NSW DPI Season 1 Episode 10
The Business of Dairy
Fall Armyworm Impacts and the Feed That Gets Better With Time
Show Notes Transcript

The potential for reduced yields and fodder quality in corn and sorghum crops is something that now has to be proactively managed by farmers as a result of detection of fall armyworm in Australia. It is a plant pest that first appeared in QLD in February 2020 and also the NT and norther parts of WA.  It has subsequently been found throughout the eastern seaboard as far as Tasmania. Being a new pest, we are still learning how to best manage it and this month we hear from Ross Warren, Senior Dairy Extension Officer with QDAF who has seen the impact across many farms in the subtropical region of NSW and QLD and how dairy farmers are managing it. Also joining us is Jason Bake, who runs a family dairy operation near Coffs Harbour in northern NSW. Corn silage is a large component of his herds diet and we hear how they have managed it on farm, as well as why Jason views corn as “the only crop that improves in value over time”!

Useful resources related to this podcast:

Subtropical Dairy/QLD Department of Ag and Fisheries – Fall Army Worm Update Webinar

NSW DPI Fall Armyworm resource page

Dairy Australia Fall Armyworm resource page

This podcast is an initiative of the NSW DPI Dairy Business Advisory Unit – further information and resources are available here

It is brought to you in partnership the Hunter Local Land Services

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The information discussed in this podcast are for informative and educational purposes only and do not constitute advice. 

The Business of Dairy 

 

Episode #10 Transcript – “Fall Armyworm Impacts and the Feed That Gets Better With Time” 

 

 

Sheena Carter: Welcome to the Business of Dairy podcast. I'm Sheena Carter, development officer with the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries dairy team. The potential for reduced yields and fodder quality in corn and sorghum crops is something that now has to be proactively managed by farmers as a result of detection of fall armyworm in Australia. It is a plant pest that first appeared in Queensland in February 2020 and northern parts of the Northern Territory and Western Australia. It is now widespread, occurring throughout the eastern seaboard. Being a new pest, we are still learning how best to manage it. And this month we hear from Ross Warren, senior dairy extension officer with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, who has seen the impact across many farms in the subtropical region of New South Wales and Queensland, and how dairy farmers are managing it.  

 

Also joining us is Jason Bake, who runs a family dairy operation near Coffs Harbour in northern New South Wales. Corn silage is a large component of his fodder base and we hear how they have managed to control fall armyworm on their farm, as well as why Jason views corn as: the only crop that improves in value over time.  

 

Welcome, Ross. It's great to have you on our podcast today, thanks for joining us.  

 

Ross Warren: Thanks very much for the invitation, Sheena.  

 

Sheena Carter: Now, look, you've been… obviously we've had fall armyworm in the country for two years now. It has had an impact on our crops within the dairy industry and you've been out and about and seeing quite a bit of this, particularly this year. We're sort of coming to the point now in a lot of regions where harvest is happening for corn silage and sorghum silages. Can you describe to our listeners what sort of impact fall armyworm has on these crops? You know, physically what we see, the impact on the crops, and yeah, describe what you see in them.  

 

Ross Warren: Thanks Sheena. What we've seen is a great deal of variability across the Queensland and northern New South Wales districts this year, different to last. We are learning about this, is one thing I will preface saying here Sheena. We don't know a lot about it and we are learning on the run somewhat. However, I think there's some clear indications about the impacts the fall armyworm’s having and how we manage that going forward into the future. The visual damage of fall armyworm is quite distinct and very noticeable – we term it windowing of leaves basically – where we see holes put in leaves of sorghum or corn crops or other crops that we might use in dairy. We notice these, and depending on the stage of impact, obviously depending what crop they have, will affect the yield and outcome of that crop in the long run. But certainly damage in a crop at a young age, obviously takes out the opportunity for the plant to photosynthesise. And so we could have a significant effect on plant growth rates if the fall armyworm has come in at a very early stage of crop development. And we have seen that across the districts, again mixed and varied. And there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why that might be the case other than to say that it is mixed and varied across the districts, Sheena. 

 

Sheena Carter: Right, so that sort of early establishment phase is one of those critical periods where you really need to be monitoring pretty closely? 

 

Ross Warren: I believe it is, Sheena, that's one thing we have learned, particularly. Last year we somewhat experimented on farm where certain crops weren't sprayed at all and the armyworm was in there from the young age. Those crops were significantly impacted in terms of yield and quality at the time they got through to harvest. This year we have generally taken an option to spray certain crops in certain areas if we think the damage is going to have an effect on yield at the early stage and we're getting to harvest on those crops and I think we're seeing a reasonable result in terms of controlling those fall armyworms at that point in time. However, there's still some challenges, particularly for corn and maize crops that we're seeing up here, Sheena. We see massive challenges for those crops, I think, going forward.  

 

Sheena Carter: So we've got that critical establishment phase and then these other challenges that are coming through with the maize, are there other critical periods in the crop’s development where it's more important, or where more of the damage is happening?  

 

Ross Warren: So we have seen a variation of impact between, let’s broadly say sorghum, whether that be grain sorghum or forage sorghum crops and maize crops. And so as a general rule of thumb, and all this must be generalised, Sheena, but generally our sorghum crops are more robust and more able to grow out of a damaged period as opposed to maize. And so with our maize crops, we have tended to monitor numbers, that's certainly something we must do, is monitor numbers within a crop and then spray at appropriate times with appropriate chemicals. With maize, we're finding that we're spraying at, generally, at the young stages, it's come in maybe six or eight leaf stage. If we were to spray at that time and control the incursions, what we've seen mostly in our areas here is that that crop has then got through to tasseling. And then we seem to be finding more incursions coming through at tasseling and then cobbing. And, there’s a farmer that I work up here in the Mary Valley, who's unfortunately in that stage at the moment and has had to spray their crop with a drone incidentally, twice within the last 10 days, just to try and control their numbers of fall armyworm that are coming in whilst that cob is developing. And that's had a significant impact to the cost and we haven't harvested that crop yet, but we're expecting that there’ll be yield decline and we expect there’ll also be a quality decline in those cobs of corn because there have been some fall armyworm penetrate the cobs and we know from experience last year when that happened, we ended up with some fungi development or mould that grew in those crops. And so we had not only a reduction in starch, but we also had a mycotoxin issue with those crops being ensiled. An added cost if the farmers weren’t already but certainly must be aware of feeding mycotoxin binders for those sort of crops and sorghum is a little different in the nature of the grain formation, you’ve got much more of an open head, as we know, with our sorghums, and we don't seem to see the effect of the fall armyworm on the grain development like we do in our maize crops.  

 

Sheena Carter: Right, so the starch content isn't going to be too greatly affected in your sorghum crops, your grain sorghum crops, as it is with the risk of the cobbing phase in the maize.  

 

Ross Warren: No it hasn't, Sheena, and as I said, we've got one farm that has spayed their grain sorghum crop in the early stages of that development and the situation there was they do have a small area that they grow for their silage and they rely very heavily on that for their feeding program going forward through the autumn. So we decided that spraying that crop in the young stage was pertinent and that crop’s developing and will be harvested within the next fortnight. I would be very surprised if there's been any negative effect on yields. But everyone else has just suffered a little bit of damage in their sorghum crops thus far, yields haven't been impacted to any great degree at this point in time. 

 

Sheena Carter: Okay. Do you have any sort of figures on, you know, reduction in yield on corn crops?  

 

Ross Warren: Yeah, last year, unfortunately, it was reduction by about a third in that crop, and our starch content was the other thing that was unfortunately really impacted, Sheena. Our starch content dropped below where our sorghum starch results were coming in at. Very, very disappointing for the farmers to harvest that sort of crop. And then, as I said, the mycotoxin issues that presented then going forward. And one thing I would say we've noticed and it may not hold true going forward, but what I have noticed in this particular area is that the earlier we're planting more maize crops, which up here might be the end of August or thereabouts, and in the season and then harvesting prior to Christmas, there would be less of a fall armyworm burden than what we're seeing on our corn crops now in the early parts of the year.  

 

Sheena Carter: Yeah, okay. And are many people, sort of, considering swapping out from maize into sorghum silage instead, just to lower all those risks?  

 

Ross Warren: Yes, Sheena, we have seen a move, a conscious move away from that on some people's properties, and that was based on the experience that we had last year. We've also seen a move in some of our grain growing areas as well, that were impacted by fall armyworm last year, whereas in the past they might have grown maize for corn grain, they've grown sorghum in a large area this year, and that was purely and simply to get away from the damage that they received last year. So there has been a conscious move. But as I said, Sheena, it's been so mixed and varied, like there’s many examples where I could give where… this one comes to mind for a farm I deal with on the Darling Downs, one of their paddocks was affected and they sprayed – this was in a maize crop 20 kilometres from the home dairy – and they haven't sprayed at all. So it's very, very unusual and there's no script.  

 

Sheena Carter: Right, you can't put it down to any particular wind or anything that might be, yeah, accounting for it.  

 

Ross Warren: I would say that we have got better with our maize crops and the management of them this year, Sheena. I think we'll get better and better, but you know, some of the options that farmers have got and some of the chemical options are interesting, and certainly this fall armyworm is resistant to some of the chemicals we might have sprayed with in the past, and that's been a challenge for everyone to get their heads around. But there is some really good chemistry available to farmers now, and I think there's a lot of energy being put on selecting the right chemicals so that we do target the fall armyworm specifically with our sprays and we try and keep as many beneficial within our paddocks as we can because they're working for us all the time, and that's something I'm learning about, and I think as farmers as well, we're learning together to try and really target this pest.  

 

Sheena Carter: Yeah, and I guess with the chemicals available we need to be very careful that we don't end up developing resistance to those as well, so it is that really fine line of managing and applying at the right time and all those management factors, isn't it?  

 

Ross Warren: Absolutely, Sheena. And also in the dairy industry, we have to be really conscious of withholds obviously as well. And so that presents another element of risk or limitation that we have in terms of the chemicals that we can use our dairy businesses.  

 

Sheena Carter: Yeah. And I think, look, there's the webinar that you presented on in November last year with Dr. Melina Miles, an entomologist from QDAF, and there's some fantastic information in that section and there will be a link to it in our show notes, but she mentioned the virus that's now available in Australia, Fawligen, do you know of many people using that at all?  

 

Ross Warren: Yeah, so it's an interesting advancement in chemistry, Sheena, that's for sure, and we've had good success with Fawligen. There are some limitations, however, and that is in its application. So for those farmers that we have, with the likes of the centre pivot or lateral move – some of those low-pressure irrigation systems – some small, relatively inexpensive injection pumps for centre pivots and laterals have been really well suited to the application of Fawligen because it's generally considered a low volume application, and so we don’t put a lot of water with the application of Fawligen and it worked quite well. However, if we’ve got varying spray rigs and other things, we do have to just get that application right with Fawligen, to have its best effect. And we've also worked with a spinosad chemical group which we've applied with the drone recently here in the Mary Valley. We had a tremendous kill with that, again, a very low volume application and the way that those particular chemicals work suits the low application rate and rather than being knocked down, they progressively work over time, and we've had some good results with those. And target specific, and so the beneficials are surviving those applications and continuing to work in numbers that we don't really understand at this point, other than to say, if we keep them they must be doing something and they'll only probably get better in our crop as years go by.  

 

Sheena Carter: Yeah, that's very interesting. It'll be interesting to watch that space over time and see what else comes into the mix in terms of that sort of integrated pest management portfolio. Now you mentioned some of these maize crops, both a reduction in yield and also quality. So I guess for farmers, this has a couple of management implications with both, I guess, their fodder budgeting, you know, if you've suffered a one third loss in yield, you're going to have to probably find that feed somewhere else if it's not able to be made up with, you know, depending on your system and what you're… if you're a PMR system or whatever, and I guess also highlights the importance of feed testing for quality. Are you having to do many fodder budgets with farmers or how’s that looking?  

 

Ross Warren: Yeah, Sheena, look I run a silage group up here in the Mary Valley, where we compare and contrast our yields and silage quality a couple of times a year. And so people are looking at their budgets, particularly last year when this thing come through and caught us a lot more unawares than we were this year. There were some impacts on silage stacks and I couldn't reinforce more what you just mentioned there, Sheena, the fact that feed testing is really critical to get an understanding of what you've got in the pit and how it might impact your feeding strategy going forward and obviously our tonnages and how they might be affected once we've got it in the pit. But yes, people are feed budgeting. People are looking at the impacts that this fall armyworm’s had and what they might have to do. We have been fortunate in a lot of areas in the subtropical region this year, Sheena, where we've had some lovely rainfall over the spring and summer, and so some of our crop yields are quite high, and you know, I can say from the crops that we've harvested either late last year or early in this year, they are up there with some of the higher yields that we could expect in this district, which has been great. But as a as I probably alluded to, I think our fall armyworm damage has increased since the new year. And so those people that we're able to get the crops off a little earlier seem to have suffered less than those getting crops off just now.  

 

While I think of it, Sheena, it's probably out of kilter with what we’ve talked about, but some of the returning crops of sorghum, because we do get two, or perhaps three cuts up here in this neck of the woods, have been perhaps affected by fall armyworm more so than the initial crop. Now there's a couple of schools of thought in and around that, and one may be that we didn't get the nutrients back on those crops after the first lot of harvest, and a lot of that was due to wet weather after our harvest windows. And we do know that the fall armyworm does affect crops that have suffered from nutrient deficiencies, more than a crop that has been well appointed with nutrients. So the returning crops have suffered more than the initial crops.  

 

Sheena Carter: Yeah, that's an interesting time regarding fertilisers and prices, perhaps. Yeah, try not to skimp. The extra cost might be, you know, outweighed by the loss in yield. 

 

Ross Warren: Yes, and that's where the feed budgeting has come in really well and certainly a consideration for farmers. 

 

Sheena Carter: Yeah. Okay, fantastic. So look, let's hope that a lot of those crops come off well this year, both in terms of yield and quality with the management that's taken place from what we've learnt over the journey of the last two years. Have you got, sort of, three top tips you might have for farmers for planning their next season? 

 

Ross Warren: Yeah look, Sheena, there's probably more than three, but I'll try and keep it to three. One thing in my observations and analysis and recordings, one learning has been that if we're going to grow corn crops, we definitely have to monitor regularly and spray with appropriate chemicals when required, whether that be through the early spring or early summer. So corn crop is something we really do have to monitor all the way through rigorously. And I can say that the fall armyworm has added an element of cost to growing corn because if we don't attend to its requirements well, we will suffer greatly at the other end, both in terms of yield and quality.  

 

Sorghum, I will say that our experience has been it is much more resilient than corn and certainly able to grow out of an effect more so than corn. Notwithstanding that, we can't get an effect on yield, particularly as we move in to the middle and late summer period. As we've probably seen, these numbers and pressure on crops is increasing as we move through the summer period.  

 

And the other thing is, Sheena, I think that I’d like to say is that we do have an armoury to combat the fall armyworm. It's just new and we're learning more, and it's going to cost people a lot more to grow, particularly maize crops. But I think with the right chemistry, the right monitoring and the right amount of money behind it, we can still get a maize crop. 

 

And then to finish off, maybe I’ve gone to four or five, Sheena, forgive me, but feed testing the crop is critical. And also for growing corn crops, just be really aware of that mycotoxin incursion that might be there from moulds and fungi that have got into the cobs from fall armyworm damage.  

 

Sheena Carter: No, fantastic, thanks, Ross. So it's a high focus on planning and monitoring and testing throughout the whole journey of the crop cycle really, isn't? Into the pit and beyond.  

 

Ross Warren: Absolutely.  

 

Sheena Carter: Fantastic. All right, thanks. Now we've got Jason, Jason Bake. Welcome to the podcast.  

 

Jason Bake: Thank you very much, Sheena.  

 

Sheena Carter: Pleasure. Great to have you onboard. We've already mentioned you’re a dairy farmer in the northern New South Wales region, just west of Coffs Harbour, our south-west of Coffs Harbour, around Bonville. Can you quickly just give us a bit of a description about your business; where you are and some of the things that you do in your operation in terms of your pasture and fodder base?  

 

Jason Bake: Absolutely, Sheena. First of all, I'd just like to say there was a lot of pertinent points you raised there, Ross. There was some very solid information in what you said there for farmers.  

 

My wife and I and our three daughters and our team of people here, we run about, just over 400 crossbred cows, jerseys and crossbred cows, and just over 100 hectares; produce just over 2 million, 2.15 million litres of milk a year. Basically through summer, we're all kikuyu based with a bit of chicory through that period of time. Also, we're feeding corn silage on our feed pad and also we've gone back to feeding grain in the dairy, feeding barley grain in the dairy through winter. Obviously, there’s annual ryegrass and chicory. And we also supplement through winter with corn silage, possibly corn earlage if we have it, which we generally do. Also there’s soybean silage and vetch silage that we make from the fallow of the previous spring. Generally speaking, we used to be all autumn calving, but now we're probably two thirds autumn, one third late spring just to make use of a surge of pasture that will get this time of the year because we get a lot of cows that are dry, very stale. Well, actually they’re all dry just now. We’re just about to start calving in about 10 days time, just we've got a surge of feed now that we can produce relatively cheap milk off. Yeah, that's pretty much a bit of an oversight of it. 

 

Sheena Carter: Yeah, that's great. So obviously you've mentioned corn a fair bit in that outline. So corn plays a fairly big role in your milking herds diet. How can you describe the impact of fall armyworm on your business over the last two years? What is the impact been and what's it mean for you?  

 

Jason Bake: The corn plays a major role in the production system. We’ll probably put down, this year we’ll put down probably fifteen, sixteen hundred tonne of corn silage and we have 400 tonne carryover from last year. The full armyworm, when we were first introduced to it, obviously last year, we were very fortunate in the fact that the Local Land Services office in Coffs is quite vigilant and following up on the fall armyworm. They have a pheromone trap on our corn paddock. It's there year-round and as soon as anything is detected, we're notified.  

 

I think the worst it got to last year, they were finding on a weekly basis, in the height of the season, they were finding like, four and five fall armyworm moths in the trap, which if you look at some of the statistics coming from a lot of the other places around where they traps, that is very, very low, extremely low. We're very lucky in that respect. So last year, basically, what we did was monitor twice a week and we were monitoring what moths we seen, although we couldn't tell which ones were which then, between helicoverpa and fall armyworm, and then just the total head count, for want of a better way of putting it, of larvae.  

 

So we were finding it difficult, obviously, you couldn't tell whether they were fall armyworm up to the stage where they were third-instar, second, third-instar. It was very high populations of neos and first-instar larvae, which tended to drop off quite rapidly due to a bit of cannibalism and so forth. We were actually finding… we’d go through and test… look at 100 plants and we were finding at least one larvae on each corn plant. We made a conscious decision, because we didn't know exactly whether they were fall armyworm or helicoverpa, we went through and sprayed with Vivus Max last year and went from one larvae per plant to one larvae per 10 plants within a week. So obviously we had very little incursion of fall armyworm last year, which was reflected in a lot of our cost of production. We didn't need to go through and spray other chemicals because we didn't particularly deem it necessary after we put the Vivus on, which took out the helicoverpa.  

 

This year’s been a little bit different. One of the points that Ross raised earlier was planting early. We've changed our planting. We used to plant in December many years ago. We've moved that to early October, and that had nothing to do with fall armyworm, but it just really suits that pattern now because of the… coming out of the relatively cool winter, so you have a minimal population there and you get the plant up and going, well and truly before you start getting any great numbers of fall armyworm moving in. And also then, like we went through last year and monitored fairly closely, this year we started the exact same monitoring program when the corn was like, oh, probably third leaf, so not real tall at all, and there was a lot of larvae in there then. So we went and sprayed shortly after that with… we used Fawligen along with Vivus Max and put a real dent in the population for quite a while – of both lots of larvae obviously. And then went back with the corn just prior to tassel, probably a week before tassel, and found very high populations of large fall armyworm in crop. So we then went through and sprayed Altacor through a drone and put another big check in the population and we were able to get through tasseling, silking and grain set quite effectively. There's some grubs in the crop, we were harvesting corn silage today, and there are larvae in there now but they’re at a stage where the corn has developed and they're doing not a great deal of damage at all.  

 

Sheena Carter: Right, and I guess we haven't said, but you're a dry land farm. Ross was talking earlier about putting the Fawligen through irrigators. You're obviously applying it just with a spray rig?  

 

Jason Bake: The Fawligen went out through a ground rig, yes. We sprayed the Vivus and also put in trace elements as well. That went out when the corn was probably around the fifth leaf stage. Then when we went through and sprayed the Altacor later on, that went on through a drone through 30 litres a hectare of water.  

 

Sheena Carter: Yeah, interesting. It's amazing the technology that's being brought in to manage these pests, you know.  

 

Jason Bake: Yeah, things that you didn't know existed 12 months ago, and now there’s people around here and you’ve got to admit you’re spoilt for choice..  

 

Sheena Carter: Yes. Yes, so you're currently taking your corn off. And so there's a bit of damage you're saying, but do you think your yield and quality of cobbing will be too badly affected, or you think your management strategies have worked?  

 

Jason Bake: We obviously don't have the population that is around anywhere else, but yes they are there. I think what we've done has served us well this year. Like, we got good advice from our agronomist, Matt Thompson, and he has said on a number of occasions, you know, the biggest thing is, you know, monitor, monitor, monitor. When we get to a certain trigger point, you’ve got to do something. We've got to those points a couple of times. We've implemented different regimes of different sprays and so forth at different stages, and it seems to have worked well for us. I mean the cobs are full, like there was no silk damage, so a lot of the kernels pollinated, there’s obviously a little bit of stuff right at the very tip, and that's probably more associated with running out of nutrient because the crop probably had 40 inches of rain on it while it was growing, so it probably got nutrient stressed as opposed to anything else. All in all, I’m quite happy with the crop this year. There is some windowing in the leaves, but when you look at the net worth of what the crop is, it's more the starch than the fibre, in my opinion, and there's been minimal grain damage. So yeah, very happy. 

 

Sheena Carter: That’s good. I might just segue on from there to your feed quality. I know the C4Milk project, which is a partnership between Dairy Australia and Queensland Government, have been doing some work looking at starch, digestibility and availability in silage crops. And I know you've been doing a bit of your own testing, Jason, to monitor that. So obviously, as we… the longer our ensiling period with our starch, the more available it becomes because of plant chemistry, which we won't go into, but you've been doing some testing on starch, digestibility and availability yourself. And I think, what was the phrase? “Corn is the only crop that you can harvest that improves in value over time”, which I think is fantastic. Would you like to just tell us a bit about what you've done and how you've put a dollar value on this increase in availability of the starch with ensiling time?  

 

Jason Bake: To be perfectly honest with you, it's not what I've done, there’s been a whole heap of people involved in it, and I've just been, I suppose, the guinea pig that put some numbers to it at one particular point in time. Originally, it started out many years ago, a conversation with Dr Bruce Hamilton from Ruminant Nutrition Australia, we discussed the incremental increase in digestibility of starch in corn silages over time, and we started looking at it and mapped a little bit and then got onto the whole C4 project. Michelle and I are very fortunate to be part of what is known as the BANG Group – Business and Advanced Nutrition Group – with a bunch of intelligent, innovative farmers in South East Queensland and Rockhampton, that in conjunction with Dave Barber, Dr. Dave Barber, at the Gatton research facility, we've been able to look at our ensiling times and get our feeds tested – our corn silages tested. And from that we've been able to graph the change in, well the increase in digestibility over, anywhere up to and including 12 months. We’re just waiting on the 12-month figures to come back now. I mean, as it increases over time, obviously there's an increase in the net value of that to the cow as in, she's able to digest more of the starch. So, you know, if she's able to digest more of the starch you give that product to your fresh cows, sort of thing, so that they can produce… it’ll actually turn more milk out of that same kilo of dry matter. Or conversely, if you were to give it to your stale cows you’d put condition on them quicker because they’re able to access more of that… there’s more of that starch digestible over time. Some of the numbers that we looked at here just recently was out to nine months and there was a 20, just over 20 per cent increase, in the level of digestibility in a variety of corn that we’d ensiled. And when you look at the total kilos of starch that represents over a tonne of dry matter, depending on your herd composition and your return per litre of milk, there's anywhere up to it and including, potentially $200 a tonne dry matter extra value in that tonne of dry matter than what it was when you first put the corn down nine months ago.  

 

Sheena Carter: Which is significant. And I guess you don't know that unless you test to start with. I guess that's one of one of the messages, is that continuous testing, I guess Ross, particularly for your feed budgeting and your diet quality that you're feeding to the herd, but yeah, the return that you can make with a bit of patience and getting that crop, well sorry, that silage through to, you know, nine months, six months, nine months or beyond, certainly pays for itself.  

 

Jason Bake: Absolutely. I mean, everyone's guilty of feeding the corn silage straight out of the bunker, because you know, you get to a point where you need it so you've got to feed it. You know, I've done that heaps of times but looking at the numbers that we've been able to collate now, you sort of think to yourself, well even though we've got fall armyworm scourge here now, you know, there's increasing production costs through fertiliser and chemical and so forth, you know, looking at those numbers, you're still better off growing more corn to put down and put away for a longer period of time so that you've got that increase in digestibility and you can offset some of your grain costs and so forth with that over time.  

 

Sheena Carter: Yeah, no that's fantastic. And I guess it looks like you're in a pretty good position with your feed inventory at the moment with that 400 tonne of carryover and plenty more to come off in the current harvest. So you'll be able to have lots of patience, Jason.  

 

Jason Bake: Yes, well we’re just about to calve 300 cows so that 400 tonne of last year’s corn is going to be very handy, Sheena, yes. 

 

Sheena Carter: Fantastic. Jason, have you got any tips for farmers out there on, well, either you know, silage once it's in the pit, but also in terms of fall armyworm management experience? 

 

Jason Bake: I think Ross covered a lot of the tips really, really well, did a really good job on that. I mean, my biggest thing would be plant as early as you possibly can. Go early because once you start getting more and more crops of corn around you, obviously the pressure is going to become more. We're extremely fortunate here because, you know, we’ve probably got to travel 60, 70, 80 kilometres to find another crop of corn. So we just do not have that tend towards monoculture sort of thing, where there’s just crops of corn everywhere. So that's fortunate for us in that particular situation, plus around where we are there's a lot of bush, so you've got a lot of your beneficials that live naturally in the environment around the corn paddocks. I think one of the best things is to monitor, like Ross said. You've got to continue to monitor the crop and look at what you've got and be aware of your thresholds and your population numbers and what to do at that particular stage with, you know, do you release more beneficials or do you use a chemical to control it and what sort of chemical do you use to maintain beneficial populations?  

 

Sheena Carter: That's good. That's fantastic. Thank you very much to both of you for your time and insights. I think it's, you know, it's obviously a problem that’s not going to go away, so it's good to have your experience and discussion around how it's panning out in Australia. So thank you both very much for your time.  

 

Jason Bake: Not a problem at all. 

 

Ross Warren: Thanks, Sheena.  

 

Sheena Carter: Thank you for listening to this month's The Business of Dairy podcast, produced by the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries Dairy Business Advisory Unit. This series is also brought to you with funding and support from the Hunter Local Land Services. This month's show notes contain a transcript of the podcast and links to a very informative fall armyworm webinar hosted by Subtropical Dairy in conjunction with Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and fall armyworm resource pages from New South Wales DPI and Dairy Australia.  

 

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