Located southwest of George in the Eden district, The Outeniqua Research Farm serves the area from the Tsitsikamma to Caledon. Founded in 1953, the farm was established for agricultural research, providing science-based solutions in response to challenges faced by farmers in the area.

Dairy herd and infrastructure

The farm covers approximately 300 hectares. 114 hectares is under permanent irrigation, 50 hectares supplemental irrigation and 33 hectares dryland. The climate in the region is moderate with a total annual rainfall of 728 mm. The Jersey dairy herd consists of approximately 750 animals, of which 400 are milk cows and forms the basis of the dairy research effort. The feed flow system consists mainly of Kikuyu over-sown with various ryegrass species.

Research

The Outeniqua Research Farm is known for research on dairy production from planted pasture. The results of dairy and beef cattle system research from pasture provide guidelines to producers in the Southern Cape. Researchers from the Directorate: Plant Sciences, focus on the optimisation of the profitability and sustainability of planted pastures in the Southern Cape. The research programme uses an integrated approach in which management of soil, plants and animals are considered a continuum, rather than separate components. Dr. Sigrun Ammann and Janke Van der Colf, researchers at the Directorate: Plant Sciences, lead the pasture research team while Prof. Robin Meeske heads the systems research team.

Cultivar evaluations

Commercially available species and cultivars are evaluated in block trials in terms of seasonal dry matter production, sustainability over time, and resistance to local pests and diseases. Recently, more advanced cultivar evaluations, which involve the evaluation of the latest cultivars with modern genetics, have been included. This research differs from standard cultivar evaluations because along with the yield determinations, other characteristics of interest in pasture species such as flowering and flowering time, growth habit, susceptibility to disease and pasture quality are recorded.

This information leads to the selection of cultivars, especially in pasture mixtures where competition between species impact on production may have to take place more wisely. The following trials are currently underway as part of the research portfolio:

  • Subtropical grasses (16 cultivars of nine species based on two planting dates)
  • Cocksfoot/swenkgras (24 varieties)
  • Standard perennial ryegrass and ryegrass hybrids (24 varieties).
  • Standard Italian and Westerwold (10 and 12 varieties each)
  • Elite Italian ryegrass (13 varieties)
  • Elite perennial ryegrass (23 varieties)
  • Perennial grasses moderate (42 cultivars 4 species)
  • Short-duration winter grains (9 cultivars 4 species)
  • Long-duration winter grains (15 cultivars 5 species)
  • Improving the summer production and nutritional quality of dairy pastures, using forage crops chicory and smalblaarplantago (Buckhorn plantain).

Development of management guidelines and evaluations of mixtures and/or species under grazing

The following trials are currently underway:

  • The evaluation of the impact of defoliation intervals-and practices on dry mass yield and nutritional quality moderate perennial
  • The effect of different nitrogen application rates on the dry mass yield Kikuyu over-sown with various grass-legume mixtures
  • Strategic fertilization of Kikukyu- pastures over-sown with legumes
  • Optimisation of nitrogen fertilisation Kikuyu and kikuyu annual ryegrass pastures

Systems research

These studies integrate all parameters of interest to commercial producers, including pasture production and quality, stocking density, milk production per animal and milk production per hectare within a fully evaluated production system.

The Directorate: Animal Sciences focus on the following projects:

  • Citrus as an alternative to maize as an energy supplement for lactating cows on ryegrass pastures
  • High-fibre concentrate for Jersey cows kikuyu pasture. Maize was replaced by Hominychop, bran and gluten 20
  • Palm kernel extract (PKE) –supplementation to cows on kikuyu pasture in the summer.
  • The maintenance and management of the Outeniqua Jersey herd.
  • The effect of starch replacement sugar and pectin in the cows' energy feed their milk production, milk composition and fibre digestion
  • Essential oils as supplements to lactating cows on ryegrass pastures
  • Measuring methane emissions from lactating Jersey cows on pasture
Publications

For more information about research at Outeniqua Research Farm, please view the researcher profile pages and publications section of the website.

Other programmes

The farm also hosts other departmental programmes: Structured Agricultural Education and Training, Veterinary Services, Sustainable Resource Management and Farmer Support that work together to support the agricultural community as a whole.