Forage Planning and Grassland Management, Spring 2020

Following the winter of higher than average temperatures and rainfalls, spring has arrived, and we find ourselves discussing the effects of “high pressure systems” with cooler, drying, easterly winds. So how should producers boost forage production and maximise milk from forage?

Many farmers have spent the spring repairing damaged swards and not surprisingly still fixing problems left by the drought of 2018. Throughout 2018 forage was in short supply and farmers required high volumes of quick growing grasses. This saw the establishment of many short term Italian Ryegrass leys which are now showing reductions in yields and this year will require attention to maintain production.

For those looking for another short term fix and high volumes of forage to boost yields, resetting the grass rotation, consider species such as Westerwolds or Italian ryegrasses. These can provide grass volumes as large as 20t DM/ha in the first year of production and can last up to 2 years dependant on species and varietal choice. Young well managed grass swards in good soil conditions this spring can produce forage of over 20% CP and over 12 MJ ME. Feed qualities like this add great value to your business. As well as being higher in yield and higher in quality, young grass is more responsive to nitrogen and many of the new varieties have improved diseases resistance to maintain a healthier sward.

Forage planning remains critical. Some farmers will be considering which fields to reseed this year while still wanting to maintain the opportunity to extend their grazing season. This is a great opportunity to consider a brassica break crop such as Kale, Forage Rape or Stubble Turnips. The stubble turnips and forage rape can make great emergency grazing platforms if we end up with another summer drought as well as being used
for extending the season in the autumn. Break crops also improve soil health, help manage grassland weed control and allow opportunities to improve soil nutrient status for the future grassland reseed.

Pre-cut Analysis should be conducted weekly from mid April to support decision making on optimal cutting dates for grass silage. This provides information on dry matter, sugars, NDF and nitrates in the grass. Close attention to grass growth stage will also optimise silage quality.

For further grass and forage advice please call the forage line on 08000 234416.

Alex Law – 07860 784904
Grassland Products Manager

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