New Zealand grazing consultant Peter Bacchus shares a lifetime of experience on applying biodynamics to pastures. His multi-pronged approach considers balance of fertility elements, organic matter levels, soil life, and particularly soil life forces. Through biodynamic preparations and other tools he seeks to produce optimum grass quality and production for grazing animals. Also covered are biodynamic methods of pest and weed control.
WHAT IS BRIX?
In the food industry the term Brix is used
to describe the approximate amount of sugars
in fruit juices, wine, soft drinks and
in the sugar manufacturing industry.
For fruit juices, one degree Brix is
about 1-2% sugar by weight.
This usually correlates well with
As the Brix reading increases so does the perceived sweetness of fruit, fruit juices, etc.
GRASS HAS A BRIX VALUE TOO
Forages are composed of many soluble and non-soluble compounds.
Water soluble compounds (WSC) include
sucrose, fructans, minerals, proteins, lipids, pectins and acids.
A refractometer can be used to take a brix measurement
of these soluble compounds in a forage sample.
This gives a value of the soluble content in a grass sample,
and multiple samples taken throughout a paddock will give an estimate of the average WSC content in the pasture.
This should allow effective monitoring of changing pasture sugar content and corrective methods can be employed if
the sugar content is low.
WHY HAVE HIGH SUGAR CONTENT PASTURES?
Ruminant animals are relativity inefficient at converting
grass proteins to milk proteins,
only achieving approximately 20% to 25% conversion efficiency.
On top of this, some proteins are not well utilized by the animal.
The total milk output of a cow can be increased by either
improving this conversion efficiency
or increasing the total grass intake of the cow.
Research proves there is some correlation between this
conversion efficiency and high sugar content on a farm.
IGER Innovations produced research in 2001 suggesting
high sugar grasses have a positive effect on the efficiency
of milk production in an animal.
Grass is broken down in the rumen of a cow,
producing amino acids to grow and produce more protein
which is later used for milk production by the cow.
However when the diet lacks readily available energy
such as sugars, rumen microbes either cannot grow or,
instead use amino acids to provide energy,
meaning less milk production.
Feeding energy-rich foods in a concentrate feed is one way
to increase the efficiency of the rumen,
however the cheaper way is to use the sugars
which naturally occur in forages, (Moorby, 2001).
Benefit of Raising the brix level of pasture
Asian pollution may be a contributing factor to weather change
but if you look at the planetary influences the weather we are having is right on track including this present rain and snow.
We should run in to a warmer than expected July with a good growth potential
especially following the first full moon rain in a very long time.
The carbon issue as I see it is a business opportunity for organic pasture growers.
Through enhanced photosynthesis one is able to harvest greater amounts of carbon dioxide into the plant, which includes sugars.
Some of these are exuded through the roots to feed the soil biology who in due course feed the plant.
Aerobic organisms underground harvest atmospheric nitrogen as well as carbon
so as their life cycles complete they contribute nitrogen
along with other elements they have gathered from their environment
back to the plant and so the cycle goes round.
The sugars in the plant with the help of the photosynthesis process
seems to help the plant make a higher quality protein which can be experienced as improved flavour and satisfaction when eaten.
Fonterra spent some time at the recent conference talking about the protein
they were processing but little was said about how the farmer could harvest more
and better quality protein.
Peter Bacchus/ June 2010