Guild member Sara Gregson recently returned from Australia after receiving the BGAJ British Seed Houses Travel Bursary for 2013.
This award allowed her to add a tour of Tasmania farms and research institutes to a trip ‘down under’ for the 22ndInternational Grassland Congress in Sydney.
Sara tweeted during the tour and posted an end-of-tour blog at her TalkingGrass website. She has also written an article in the December issue of the British Grassland Society magazine Grass & Forage Farmer, and is writing articles for other UK farming publications.
She said: “Tasmania is blessed with stunning coastal scenery, large tracts of wilderness, mountains and areas of highly productive farmland.
“Arable crops include poppies, peas and potatoes. Beef cattle are reared and finished at grass, merino flocks produce high quality wool, and dairy farming has increased due to centre pivot irrigation, which allows all-year grass growth.”
While on the trip, Sara visited the Tasmania Institute of Agriculture Dairy Centre, where work is being carried out to support the state’s farmers. The ‘more milk from forages’ project is investigating alternative perennial forbs and legumes which could increase the continuity and length of supply of forage.
“Sixty-five per cent of Tasmania dairy farms are pasture-based, with low and stable feed costs – but also low milk production,” explained Sara. “The project aims to see if it is possible to increase forage intake and milk yields from a different home-grown feed base.
“For example, Plantain is being trialled as a monoculture or in combination with clover and perennial ryegrass.”
Sara also visited several dairy farms, long-term grazing trials and a remote property producing wool used to make high quality Italian suits from sheep grazing mainly native pastures.
“I am very grateful to the Guild and British Seed Houses for funding this part of my trip,” said Sara. “Tasmania is a fascinating state and farming an important contributor to the economy.
“I learnt a great deal and came back with lots of new contacts and ideas for possible articles in the future.”
Watch out for details of the 2014 bursary in due course.