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Australian Premium Seeds Rhodes grass breeder Don Loch, pictured in a breeding
block at Gatton in Queensland, says cattle prefer newer varieties because of their
leafiness and fewer seed heads.
CATTLE and hay producers
not planting newer vari-
eties of Rhodes grass are
missing out on major production
and productivity gains for their
enterprises, according to eminent
Rhodes grass breeder Don Loch.
Queensland-based Dr Loch, who
has been involved with Rhodes
grass breeding for more than 40
years, said older Katambora and
Callide varieties still grown in some
areas were now "a dog's breakfast
of different types'' after years of
uncontrolled multiplication, and
had fallen behind newer improved
cultivars for feed quality.
"These old varieties have been
grown on and on and so the type
now varies going from coastal areas
to central regions,'' Dr Loch said.
"Their flowering is now a mixed
bag. You get Callide producing sig-
nificant seed heads all year round
these days, so the value and quali-
ty is not there.''
Dr Loch's path to plant breeding
started as an agronomist and plant
physiologist with a special under-
standing of Rhodes grass biology,
an essential base for any successful
While he spent the bulk of his
career with the Queensland
Department of Primary Industries,
since 2008, in conjunction with
Margaret Zorin, he has led the
Rhodes grass breeding program of
Australian Premium Seeds.
Two varieties from that program
now offering producers a signifi-
cant boost for grazing and hay pro-
duction are Tolgar (Katambora
type) and Toro (Callide type).
"These newer varieties are multi-
plied professionally to maintain
varietal trueness to type and pro-
ducers that know about them are
swinging away from the older vari-
eties to these better forage and hay
types. Unfortunately, there are still
producers in some areas who are
not aware of these new varieties
and their benefits,'' Dr Loch said.
Australian Premium Seeds
National Sales Manager Steve
Walsh said some producers were
unaware of the improved Rhodes
grass options now available.
Mr Walsh said producers adopt-
ing the newer varieties had referred
to the older grasses "becoming
stalky and unpalatable''.
"Cattle prefer the newer varieties
that tend not to go to head so
quickly,'' he said.
Queensland beef producer Ian
Mitchell, who farms at Darr Creek
near Jandowae, situated north-
west of Dalby, said he could not get
his cattle to eat Katambora, where-
as a trial of Tolgar in a 6-hectare
weaner paddock had been "flogged
Mr Mitchell trades stock and
breeds Charbray cattle in the fami-
ly's 2830-hectare 'Glenburn' prop-
He had grown Katambora for
years but could not get cattle to eat
"I've got 50 cows in one paddock
and the Katambora there is waist-
high -- they stay down near the
creek and won't eat it,'' Mr Mitchell
"The Tolgar has been flogged
down to look like couch grass.''
He is now looking forward to tri-
alling other newer Rhodes grasses.
Dr Loch said Tolgar and Toro
were later-maturing; leafier and
remained leafier for longer, result-
ing in increased dry matter pro-
duction; offered higher protein and
less fibre, providing better quality
feed and because of all these rea-
sons, were more palatable for cat-
"They are preferred by cattle
because of their leafiness and fewer
seed heads in the pasture com-
pared with the older varieties,'' he
Tolgar and Toro are widely
adapted and offer high leaf-to-stem
ratio and much finer leaves and
stems than the older varieties, and
have an exceptionally high toler-
ance to saline conditions.
Toro, suitable for more intensive
production systems in higher-rain-
fall and irrigation areas, demon-
strates excellent persistence and
recovery after grazing while Tolgar
is ideal for grazing and hay pro-
duction as well as amenity, revege-
tation and soil conservation
Dr Loch said the salt tolerance
with the newer varieties, and the
breeding program's continued
focus in this area, was of special
interest for producers in WA,
where Rhodes grass was being
grown in the Geraldton region, in
the South West around to Albany,
and near the South Coast.
The Tolgar variety was recently
selected for an 830ha centre pivot
irrigated hay production site on
Rio Tinto's Hamersley Station
near Tom Price in WA. The high
quality hay will be fed to the sta-
tion's 25,000 cattle and made
available to other Pilbara pastoral-
Dr Loch said there were more
exciting cultivar releases on the
way with increased cold toler-
ance, better leaf-to-stem ratio,
and an even higher level of salt
Newer improved grass cultivars
Better forage and hay
Tolerant to saline conditions
Queensland beef producer Ian Mitchell, who farms at Darr Creek near Jandowae,
north-west of Dalby, has grown Katambora Rhodes grass for years but has been
unable to get cattle to eat it. In contrast, this trial of the Tolgar variety on his property
was "flogged down".
Cattle prefer the newer
varieties that don't go
to head so quickly
Rhodes grass options
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