Dairy farmers in parts of New Zealand could generate hundreds of dollars of additional profit per hectare by sowing an innovative High Sugar Grass.
The 2021 DairyNZ Forage Value Index (FVI), released in January, identifies Germinal New Zealand's AberGain AR1 High Sugar Grass as a leading five star cultivar for the South Island and lower North Island – making it one of the most profitable ryegrass varieties for dairy farmers in these regions.
According to the FVI results, a dairy farmer in the upper South Island could generate up to $604 of additional profit per hectare, per year by selecting AberGain AR1 for their pasture renewal programme.
The FVI is an independent, region-specific and profit-based tool for short-term and perennial ryegrass cultivars. It is produced annually by DairyNZ in collaboration with the New Zealand Plant Breeding Research Association, using data from on-farm trials throughout the country.
A five star rating is achieved through a combination of high dry matter yields, metabolisable energy content and persistence. Such traits contribute to a dairy farm's bottom line by increasing the amount and quality of feed available – ultimately resulting in more milk – and reducing reliance on imported feed.
Germinal New Zealand General Manager Sarah Gard says AberGain AR1's performance on the FVI reinforces its position as a leading variety, with measurable benefits.
"We have known for some time that AberGain AR1 is a superior ryegrass," she says. "It is already the highest ranking variety on the Irish Pasture Profit Index and achieved the highest metabolisable energy yield of all perennial ryegrasses on the British Recommended List.
"A five-star rating in the FVI independently supports our own performance data, proving AberGain AR1 is a high-yielding and high-quality forage option for New Zealand farming systems. Farmers report that their cows milk better when fed AberGain AR1, and that they prefer it over conventional ryegrass varieties."Germinal, an agricultural seed company based in Ireland and the United Kingdom, has supplied the New Zealand market with clovers and grasses for the past 15 years.
Product performance is built on the integrity of tested research and development by Germinal's research partner, the Institute of Biological Environmental and Rural Science (IBERS) in Wales. This exclusive collaboration allows Germinal to draw on world-leading research and apply it to New Zealand's unique conditions.
The company has also established a research and development station in Christchurch which is supported by on-farm trials throughout the country.
AberGain AR1 is one of Germinal's High Sugar Grass varieties which are bred to produce a higher level of water-soluble carbohydrates, or sugar energy, than traditional ryegrass. This allows microbes responsible for the breakdown of forage to operate more efficiently so more protein is converted to meat and milk and less is excreted into the environment.
AberGain AR1 is also the first tetraploid High Sugar Grass released in New Zealand.
"When compared with the standard diploid varieties, tetraploid grasses offer higher digestibility which means they are more palatable to stock. Voluntary intake therefore increases, along with animal production," says Gard.
Tetraploid ryegrasses have been shown to improve milksolids production by up to seven percent, according to DairyNZ data.
"One of the shortcomings of conventional tetraploids is their inability to withstand severe grazing events and pugging. AberGain AR1 is bred to overcome this by being very dense, with the majority of the plant growing closer to the ground – instead of the upright and flashy growth of traditional tetraploids," adds Gard.
"Combined with its high yields, pasture quality and increased animal production, AberGain AR1 offers New Zealand dairy farmers the potential to significantly lift farm profitability. Maximising the amount of high-quality grass in an animal's diet will increase milk production and reduce reliance on imported feed."
The DairyNZ Forage Value Index (FVI) ranks ryegrass cultivars on their expected economic value to New Zealand dairy farm businesses. Each cultivar has an associated 1- 5 star rating to represent its rank in the FVI. Top cultivars receive five stars, and the bottom cultivars receive one star.
Information from the FVI is included in DairyNZ's online Cultivar Selector Tool, which allows farmers to see which ryegrasses are most profitable for their region and farm type:
DairyNZ provides no assurance or warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or reliability of information in the Forage Value Index or at www.dairynz/fvi. DairyNZ has no liability for any reliance on that information.