Aussie cattle seek out sorghum sugar rush
With the ‘paddock to plate’ phenomenon proving to be a valuable tool for the Australian livestock industry, cattle farmers are singing the praises of certain forage varieties that are helping sweeten the paddock side of the equation before heading to the plate.
Wyreema Queensland-based grower Warren Folker is a third generation farmer whose upbringing in the dairy industry helped guide him to his current passion for hay.
Mr Folker is a renowned specialist hay producer for livestock in the Darling Downs region and says the key to his success has been growing Pacific Seeds’ sweet sorghum hybrid – Sugargraze.
“I’ve been growing Sugargraze for donkey’s years, and of all the varieties I’ve trialled on my property, this is the pick of the whole lot of them,” said Mr Folker.
“It’s just so much leafier and sweeter and makes beautiful hay. You can see that it’s a big hit with the cattle.
“When I’m putting hay bales out in the feeders, the moment I bring Sugargraze out, the cattle can actually smell it and they will leave the other feeders and make a beeline for Sugargraze.
“They actually fight over it and ultimately cattle are the greatest judges for which varieties suit them best.
Sugargraze has a proven track record as a sweet sorghum combining good productivity, excellent sugar levels and adaptability. Sugargraze’s sweet stems and high protein content, make this product a clear favourite with growers.
“The secret for growing the best hay, is to plant it really thick and then cut it at 150cm high – what you end up with is a really leafy, soft, sweet product, whereas other products I’ve seen are a lot stalkier and courser,” said Mr Folker.
“I think the common thought is to grow sweet sorghums as high as you can, to maximise the number of hay bales – but you really do lose that quality.
“A number of my customers who have sales and show cattle, and they always go for the Sugargraze, because they know it’s the best quality and will be a hit with their cattle.
“The protein and sugar content really helps fatten cattle up – I call it cow candy.
“I can’t confirm if Sugargraze affects the final flavour of the meat, but one of my long-time customers says he can tell which steers have been given Sugargraze as part of their diet.
While Mr Folker’s main venture is in hay, he also breeds Speckle Park cattle as a passion project – one of the most highly sought after breeds.
“Some of my cattle I sell as show steers, and I’ve got a number of people that buy meat off me privately, the rest I just send to market,” said Mr Folker.
“You haven’t tried meat until you have Speckle Park meat, it’s just absolutely beautiful.
“When I’m grazing them you know that nine times out of ten they’ll go straight to the sweeter bales first, and Sugargraze of course is a favourite.
“We even have some new neighbours who live directly across from our Sugargraze paddock and they even made a comment, ‘is that that crop there that we can smell the sweet smell’ and I said yeah that’s what it is. It’s just amazing.”