Nigel & Clare Clatworthy

“Even when water IS available through the irrigation scheme, I will still be planting SF Greenly II for its superior palatability and performance.”

The notorious Canterbury nor’wester roaring off the mountains doesn’t bother Nigel Clatworthy who uses cocksfoot at his Darfield dry land beef farm.

“I have to make money on fattening cattle. It can be incredibly hot and dry because of those nor’westers and it’s why I have gone for cocksfoot.”

Nigel and Clare Clatworthy farm Friesian bulls on 150ha of flat land, buying in 100kg calves. He sells a cut in autumn at 300kg, and takes the rest through to slaughter. Nothing is set in stone and Nigel sells as the seasons dictate.

About 45ha of the Clatworthy’s farm is planted in SF Greenly cocksfoot. A robust fine-leaved upright permanent grass, it’s perfect for dry conditions. “The bulls do really well on it. They like fibre and coarser grass, and in the spring we can get 2.5kg live weight gain a day.”

Nigel plants pure swards of cocksfoot at rates of 10-15kg/ha and refuses to sow it with clover. “Yes, I know it’s not what everyone is doing. The clover competes with the main crop for the nutrients and when you farm where we do and its 35°C with 20 percent humidity, clover doesn’t grow.”

Nigel is talking from experience. He’s put different pastures in previously but within two years they die out. “I cannot afford to put in ryegrasses that fly – then die – when February arrives. Rocket fuel grass doesn’t grow so what’s the point?”

Nigel says lucerne is often suggested to him as an alternative but it’s just not flexible enough. “You can’t hammer it in winter and have it come back in spring.” His SF Greenly produces 12,000 kgs dry matter a year, and when water becomes available through the Central Plains Water Irrigation Scheme Nigel expects that to increase to 16,000 kg.

Other positives include its pest tolerance. The massive root zone of a cocksfoot is impenetrable by grass grubs and Nigel doesn’t have to deal with patches of dead grass experienced by others.  “We haven’t had grass grub for five years.”

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