Nobby neighbours still rapt with fodder partnership

November 23, 2017


Josh and Melvin Mengel have been supplying a neighbouring dairy with fresh forage for 15 years. 

A fodder partnership between neighbouring farmers at Nobby on the Darling Downs is still going strong after 15 years.

The Mengel family is the producer part of the equation - growing, cutting and baling forage crops of sorghum, oats and barley - while the Harrigan family is the consumer component, buying it to feed their Friesian dairy cows.

The deal has produced benefits for both sides, including a guaranteed market come harvest, the elimination of freight, a reliable feed source and fresh, high quality fodder.

Melvin, Dianne and son Joshua Mengel farm Kia-Ora, along with Melvin and Dianne’s daughters Aimee and Renee and their grandchild Cameron, who is sixth-generation.

Josh Mengel said for forage sorghum, their preference for several seasons has been brown midrib X Sudan hybrids because they met the needs of their neighbour and the wider market.

“Harrigan Farming Co is chasing premium quality, high protein hay.  The BMR gene provides improved digestibility and palatability, leading to higher milk production,” he said.

“BMR Octane is our preferred variety because of its high energy feed value for the dairy, beef and sheep industries.  It can be used for grazing, hay, pit silage or baled silage.”

In addition to forage crops, they grow millet, corn and mungbeans in summer and wheat and barley in winter, as well as running 40 breeding cattle.

Melvin said a recently purchased McHale round bale wrapper for making silage has also given them the ability to produce the same high-quality crops but with more flexibility.

“We’ve been growing sorghum, oats and barley for round bale hay and sending it up to Harrigan Farming Co for many years, but this was the first year we have done round bale silage for him,” he said.

“The benefit of round bale silage is you can secure your feed for long periods, you don’t need a big pit for storage, you can bale at high moisture and our proximity allows it to be wrapped at the storage site to limit damage.”

The McHale wrapper was bought for the 2016 winter oats crop before being used on its first summer crop, which was 2.4ha hectares of forage sorghum, consisting predominately of BMR Octane and BMR Rocket.

The sorghum was planted on January 31 in a paddock fallow out of corn with a tyned no-till Janke planter on 38cm rows at a rate of 9.9kg/ha.

It received 247kg/ha of nitrogen pre-plant and 62kg/ha of Starter Z at-plant.

Mr Mengel said the season got off to a tough start, with no rain falling for two-and-a-half weeks.

“The weather was shocking to start with.  We didn’t see any rain until February 18 and then we got around 130mm from Cyclone Debbie.

“We received about 190mm before the first cut and about 25mm before the second cut.”

The first cut on March 27 produced 60 bales and the second cut on May 29 produced 23 bales.  The crop was then frosted out on May 30.

He said cutting the crop at a height of 1-1.5m produced the best result.

“As forage gets taller, available bulk increases, but quality declines, so we want to get that balance right.”

The Mengels cut the forage at 80 per cent moisture with a Massey Ferguson disc mower conditioner, let it dry down for two days and bale it at 50pc moisture with a round baler.

The family loads their semi-trailer and truck with a maximum of 42 bales, which weigh between 700 and 800kg, and drive to the dairy to unload them.

Now, they can use the wrapper to seal the crops in airtight plastic for the dairy to feed out to the Friesians at a later date.