Staying a step ahead in 2023

Staying a step ahead in 2023

As 2022 draws to a close, Jimmy Goldie chief technical officer at Carr’s Billington, reviews the biggest issues which have caused challenges for farmers in the last year and suggests which challenges are likely to crop up again in 2023.

Variations in forage

During 2022, forage quality and quantity has been a challenge for many growers across the UK. With the hot and dry summer, grass growth was limited, and many silage cuts were impacted.

In the north, there were fairly good quantities of forage cut, but the quality was variable, so livestock performance has been under par.

However, in the south and east, forage stocks have been poor due to the drier weather which has brought on challenges for farmers with supplementation.

This has had an impact on national milk production. It’s been suggested that earlier this year, milk production dropped by up to a million litres a day when compared to the same time last year. However, production levels have since exceeded expected levels due to cows being fed either more concentrate or farmers moving towards late season grazing in the south of the country to support production.

In the year ahead, farmers will likely have to carefully manage their forage stock levels to ensure there is a sufficient supply to maintain livestock performance.

High milk prices

In the last year, milk prices have risen substantially, but alongside this, feed prices and input prices have also risen significantly with agricultural inflation now at around 30%.

This means farmers need to focus on production efficiency and balancing milk from forage to make sure performance is optimised.

It’s thought that milk price may drop in the spring so this could bring additional challenges if input costs remain high. Feeding animals as efficiently as possible will therefore be critical.


Labour is another challenge for the sector. There is limited availability of skilled labour across the UK at every level.

In agriculture, while technology, such as robotic milking machines, is seen as a way to overcome labour issues, there is still a need for a skilled workforce to look after animals, maintain machinery and manage farm businesses.

With the cost-of-living crisis, this issue could become much more of a strain in the year ahead. For example, a lack of labour could stop large herds expanding further.

Farm efficiency will help farmers to deal with the impacts of labour shortages.

Fertiliser costs

This year, farmers have generally experienced a good growing season, even on farms where there have been cut backs on fertiliser use due to rising fertiliser prices.

However, as input costs continue to rise and with inflation high, many more producers may be forced to cut back on fertiliser. Instead, they may rely more heavily on slurry and natural soil nutrition

With this in mind, farmers need to be conscious that soil nutrient reserves aren’t depleted by cutting back on fertiliser. Regularly testing soil and ensuring the soil nutrient balance is maintained will help to protect soil health and ensure crops are supported through their development.

There may also be opportunity to take advantage of the new Slurry Infrastructure Grant to maximise the use of slurry and muck on farm.

Energy costs

Like many across the country, the cost of living has increased for farmers and energy costs are at an all-time high. Farms rely heavily on energy for looking after animals, milking, machinery maintenance, storage and biosecurity. It’s therefore difficult to reduce the need for energy on farms.

To deal with this, farmers should take advantage of any government energy grants where possible and look at alternative farm practices to reduce energy reliance.

Jimmy’s top tips for farming in 2023

Heading into 2023, Jimmy provides some top tips that all farmers should consider:

  • Look at accurate use of inputs – this could help farmers to save on costs and optimise performance
  • Minimise waste – whether this is feed, fertiliser or energy  
  • Be careful with choosing the ‘cheaper’ option – sometimes the cheaper options don’t always deliver the desired results and may not help you to save on costs in the long run

For advice on managing your forage or inputs in the year ahead, speak to your local Carr’s Billington adviser.

Grow Great Grass To Cut Feed Costs

Grow great grass to cut feed costs

Excerpt: Jimmy Goldie, Chief Technical Officer for Carr’s Billington, reports on 2022 grass and silage trends and what to do now, for next year.

With costs of production rising to levels never seen before, grass and forage are ever-increasingly the cornerstone to milk production profitability. Why? Because grass is one of our cheapest resources and one of the only variable costs that farmers can take true control of.

Even with milk prices higher than ever before, margins are tight. However, these milk prices may not be here to stay, so now is the time to put a lens on winter forage utilisation and spring grass growth to get a step ahead of 2023 market pressures.

Results of 2022 grass and forage monitoring

Quantity and quality of grass directly impacts the quantity and quality of milk, and so knowing the input is essential in influencing the outcome. By measuring inputs, we get the baseline understanding to prescribe cows with exactly what they need – no more and no less – to get the desired output with minimal waste.

Carr’s Billington analyses over 10,000 grass and forage samples annually to determine growth rates, dry matter levels, energy levels, crude protein levels and sugar levels.

Through NutriOpt, Carr’s Billington combines values in the field with values in the rumen – giving a full picture from the soil to the milk tank. 

Evaluating our 2022 grass and forage analysis data, we can deduce a huge farm-to-farm variation in all the important parameters. This variability affirms the importance of conducting analysis at farm level rather than taking the average as a guide.

Having said that, some key trends emerged through the growing season:  

  • Energy value and digestibility declined; and
  • Protein levels remained high.

The first of these trends affirms the importance of making the most of early season growth.

Making more of grass growth from spring 2023

Looking ahead to our next growing season, understanding and assuring the health of your soil – structurally and nutritionally – should be top on the list of priorities now through to early spring.

It is essential we analyse and optimise soil health now. The only other measure of soil health is grass growth, and once we see sub-optimal grass growth in early spring, it’s too late – we’ve missed the growth opportunity. This loss of opportunity can have a significant knock-on effect for the rest of the year.

It is now a legal requirement to analyse soil on a 5-year cycle in England, however we would recommend doing this on a 3-year cycle, or even more frequently where changes to management have occurred. For example, if you reduced or even removed the use of fertiliser in 2022, soil phosphate and potassium reserves may now be insufficient for the next growing season.

To make soil and grass management more precise and efficient, we now offer the RHIZA fully integrated digital field mapping service which works by identifying soil health status for guiding precision applications, monitoring performance, and managing sustainable performance.

Making more of grass grazing from Spring 2023

With prospects of decreasing milk prices being talked about, as well as more milk contracts stipulating that cows need to be outside for proportion of the year, good grass growth is going to be essential in 2023.

Here’s some top tips to get the most out of your next growing season.


As soon as you can access fields, carry out any maintenance work or groundwork. Repair any sub-optimal tracks and assure adequate water points. Reseed or overseed where sward productivity was low in 2022, ensuring soil health is optimised first as suggested already.


Aim to turn out early to keep control of grass quality in early season when growth is at its best. Having said that, cows on wet ground can cause significant and irrevocable damage to grass swards, so take care to only turnout as soon as the conditions are right. If you have extra silage left over, turn it over to next year or sell it rather than delaying turnout.


Get in the habit of using a plate meter to measure residuals when cows come in for milking each day. Closely monitor and adjust grazing allowances to avoid waste as quality declines from under-grazing, or sward damage and suboptimal intakes from over-grazing. We advise between 1500kg-1700kg, depending on productive capacity of the cows in milk.


Whether in-parlour or buffering, work towards supplementing grass, rather than substituting grass. Cow don’t know the price of milk or feed, but they do know the value of nutrients. Avoid feeding too much TMR as cows will prefer to eat that over the grass which would lead to waste in the field. Ensure you have the agility to quickly reformulate rations to follow changes in forage and grass.

Making the most of forage this winter

By optimising the rumen environment, we improve forage digestibility and boost the returns we see from homegrown grass silage.

If your herd performance is below what you might hope or expect, it might be worth considering alternative diets, additives, and supplements to improve rumen function.

With grass silage typically more fibrous and less digestible this year, we’re advising farmers to balance their diets with wheat-based compounds or blends, and to buffer cows’ rumens to optimise rumen function.

EVOLVE365 is our dairy rumen buffer designed to optimise pH and maintain fibre digestion, supporting year-round milk from grass and forage, and maximising the nutrient value of even sub-optimal quality forages. Containing a unique blend of three technologies to help increase milk production and quality, improve gut health and overall immunity, for enhanced productivity: Advanced rumen stabiliser – TechTonic, protected live yeast – ActiSaf and metabolic regulator – Capcin.

To book your soil analysis or to speak to a formulation specialist, please contact the Carr’s Billington Forage Line on 0800 023 4416.

Avian influenza: Housing order to be introduced across England

Housing Order Hero Image

A national housing order will be introduced across England on Monday 7 November making it a legal requirement to house flocks

Mandatory housing measures for all poultry and captive birds are to be introduced to all areas of England from 00:01 on Monday 7 November, following a decision by the United Kingdom’s Chief Veterinary Officer.

Read more online at the website.

visit website


cbal & billington group logo

The Billington Group

(“The Billington Group” or “The Group”)



The Billington Group has completed the purchase of Carr’s Billington Agriculture Ltd (CBAL) from Carr’s Group PLC, now becoming the sole owner of the business.

Since its origination in 1998, Carr’s Billington Agriculture Limited (CBAL) has successfully operated as a joint venture between The Billington Group and Carr’s Group PLC with 50:50 ownership. In August, The Billington Group & Carrs Group PLC announced a deal had been agreed to sell Carr’s Group’s stake in the business to The Billington Group. Today both businesses have announced completion of the process.

The Billington Group chief executive Gary Blake said “Following our initial announcement in August we are delighted to have completed our agreement to become sole owners of Carr’s Billington Agriculture Ltd. I would like to thank Carr’s Group for working closely with Billington’s for the past 20 years to grow the business to where it is today.”

Blake added “As a fifth generation, family-owned business we are committed to developing and investing in all areas of the business for the long term and we have already started working on how we improve our business for the long term.

Carr’s Billington is the largest supplier of rural and farming solutions in the north of the country, offering a comprehensive range of feeds, machinery, animal health products, seeds, chemicals, fuels, tools, equipment and clothing.

As part of the transition, The Billington Group have appointed a new MD, Richard Quinn who said, “We’d like to take this opportunity to first and foremost reassure our valued customers that this deal completion will not impact their more immediate interactions with Carr’s Billington”.

“Looking forward however, we do have some exciting plans to improve our operational systems and processes in the background, with the specific aim of improving the reliability of service our customers expect to receive from us. The Carr’s Billington business has evolved considerably in recent years, and we are looking forward to introducing the infrastructure and investment required to support the high-quality of personnel we have on the ground and in the field”, concluded Quinn.


For further information about The Billington Group or the information contained within this press release please contact Sam Thompson – 07824145840.



 The Billington Group

– The Billington Group are a fifth generation, family company operating since 1858 with offices in Liverpool & Birmingham.

– Today, the group is a growing family of manufacturing and trading businesses operating in the food and agriculture sectors.

– The group employ over 1,500 people with a combined turnover of £325m – The group’s private, family ownership focuses on growing its people and the business for the long term.

– The group’s subsidiaries include:

  • Food Manufacturing
    • English Provender Company – with sites in Newbury and Newport
    • Billington Foods – Scunthorpe, Wellingborough
  • Agriculture
    • Carr’s Billington Agriculture Limited – Multiple sites and stores across England, Wales and Scotland
    • Criddle and Co – Liverpool

Facts about Forage and Fibre

equine forage blog

Feeding horses is both an art and a science – the science gives us information about nutrients and what they do and the art is about applying it to each individual horse or pony. Fibre is a great example of this. Research has confirmed the importance of fibre for maintaining health and well-being but there are lots of different sources and types of fibre available. Knowing which one is best for a particular horse or pony is where the art of feeding comes in.

Not all fibre is the same

Digestibility is a key concept in determining the quality of a fibre source. In principle, the more digestible a fibre is, the more energy and to some extent nutrients, it provides to the horse. Pectin is a very digestible type of fibre and is found in higher levels in sugar beet whereas cellulose is a much less digestible type of fibre. High levels of lignin, an indigestible substance that gives a plant structure, significantly reduces the digestibility of a forage. The older and taller a plant gets, the more lignin is present which is why hay is less digestible than dried grass that has been harvested when the grass is young.

Digestibility of Fibre Spectrum:

Digestibility of Fibre Spectrum




Provides a relatively high amount of energy but with very low levels of starch and sugar Higher in sugar than alfalfa which helps to make it very palatable but not as suitable for those that need low sugar diets Low in starch and sugar but low in energy too – ideal for good doers
High temperature dried so very clean – ideal for the performance horse or horses with RAO High temperature dried so very clean – ideal for the performance horse or horses with RAO Sun-dried so better suited to leisure horses
Naturally abundant in calcium – good for hooves and acts as a natural buffer to acidity in the gut. Contains less calcium than alfalfa so not as good a buffer Much lower levels of calcium and other minerals

Key things you should know about forage!

The term forage is generally used to describe the parts of plants that are above the ground that contain a significant proportion of fibre. The most common sources of forage for horses are grass, legumes such as alfalfa, and cereal straw. It is important to consider that forages are not just fibre, they contain other nutrients such as protein, minerals and sugar too. The climate in the UK means that it is necessary to use conserved forages at certain times of the year when availability of fresh forage is reduced. Forages may be harvested as young plants which tends to be the case for alfalfa in the UK as well as some grass or, they can be allowed to mature to create hay, haylage or even silage.

Why is forage so important?

Just about every article on feeding will include a mention of the importance of fibre for the horse and rightly so. The horse is an herbivore and therefore has a digestive system that functions best on an almost continuous supply of fibrous material. Some of the effects of too little fibre in the diet include:

  • Increased acidity in the stomach – the saliva produced by chewing forage neutralizes acidity in the stomach.
  • Gastric ulcers seem to be exacerbated by exercising on an empty stomach – a couple of handfuls of fibre before exercise can help to stop the acid splashing about and causing ulcers
  • Colic – just as for humans, fibre in the diet helps to promote regular bowel movements which push gas and material through, and out of, the gut. Too little fibre can result in a build-up of gas or an impaction, neither of which are good news for the horse

Forage – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

There are two main criteria that determine the quality of a forage; its nutritional value and its cleanliness and the two don’t always go together. The first priority is that the forage is clean because it doesn’t matter how many nutrients it contains, if it’s dusty or mouldy it could result in respiratory issues.

What’s the difference between hay and haylage?

The principle of conserving forage is based on removing water or oxygen in order to stop the forage from moulding or decaying. When making hay, the water content is reduced to below 20% whereas haylage typically has a water content of between 40 and 50% which is not sufficiently dry enough to stabilize it and so it has to be wrapped to create an anaerobic (oxygen free) environment. There is a definite trend for so-called “haylages” to be drier and a more accurate name for them is “wrapped hay”. There is an important difference between haylage and a wrapped hay and that is that a wrapped hay won’t have undergone fermentation. This is evident from the analysis results where the sugar levels in wrapped hay are exactly what we expect from hay NOT a haylage. This also means that a wrapped hay is less acidic than a haylage.

Soak, steam or both?

Historically, soaking hay was done to improve its hygienic quality. The increase in availability of haylage (or wrapped hays) offered a less laborious alternative to soaking but as it is more digestible, it tends to do some horses and ponies too well. Steaming has become more practical too with the introduction of commercially produced steamers – gone are the days of pouring kettles of boiling water in a dustbin!

There have been several studies looking at the pros and cons of steaming. A recent study found sugars were only reduced by 3% in steamed hay compared to 34% in soaked hay so if you need to reduce sugar content in the hay, soaking is the most effective way to do this. However, submerging in water was found to increase the numbers of bacteria in the hay which may have repercussions for gut health. The researchers therefore advocated soaking first to reduce sugar content and then steam to deal with the microbial contamination.

 Busting Myths about Fibre

Unfortunately a lot of myths abound about different fibre sources. The following information should clarify some of the most common!

 Horses can’t digest fibre, can they?

Well not themselves no but they do have a population of microbes in their digestive tract that can, and the energy the microbes release from fibre is what the horse uses as fuel for work, maintenance or growth. The other key fact is that the horse’s digestive system is designed to slow the transit of fibre long enough for the microbes to break down the fibre and release the energy – if the horse’s gut was like ours, the bugs simply wouldn’t have time to do their work before the food passed through and out of the digestive system.

Sugar Beet contains sugar, right?  

Er, no it doesn’t, well not much anyway, not by the time it has become a feed for horses and other animals. The sugar has nearly all been taken out for use in human foods and what is left is a really fibrous pulp. The pulp itself is less than 5% sugar so less than half the simple sugars found in most hays. Some sugar beet pulp has molasses added to make it a little bit sweeter and more palatable but unmolassed sugar beet pulp is a really great source of highly digestible fibre with a low sugar content. The fact that it is so digestible means it is effective at promoting weight gain safely. As it is fed soaked it can be used in a dilute form to dampen feed and hide supplements for horses and ponies that require a low sugar diet.

Is alfalfa too rich for most horses?

Rich can mean different things to different people but if we take protein as a measure of richness, most alfalfa chaffs in the UK have a protein level of between 12 and 15%. This is comparable to a conditioning cube or competition mix. Most importantly a percentage of protein means nothing until it is considered in conjunction with how much is fed. 1 scoop of a 12% alfalfa chaff weighs around 400grams and so supplies 48 grams of protein which equates to between 6-8% of a 500kgs horse’s daily maintenance needs. Very few people feed more than a couple of scoops per day and so are only supplying around 12-16% of their horse’s total requirement – certainly not a case of being too rich for most horses! Confusion is often caused by the fact that alfalfa is used as a hay in the USA and Canada and so is fed in much, much greater quantities – maybe 10kgs a day. This fact is often missed when information is posted on the internet that relates to feeding this amount of alfalfa.

I can’t use that mix, it’s got oatfeed in and my horse is fizzy

Oatfeed often causes confusion especially when it’s included in feeds for horses in light work or those prone to laminitis. Oatfeed is the fibrous hull from around the grain and is removed when the grains are processed for use in human foods such as porridge. Oatfeed contains around 25% fibre so although it comes from a cereal plant, it’s not the grain itself and so is relatively low in starch at approximately 10-12%. It is supplied in a pelleted form and so can be used to dilute other ingredients in lower energy feeds.

 I can’t feed my horse straw – he’ll get colic

Some people are put off using straw as they believe it can cause impaction colic. This is a shame as straw can be a really useful feed ingredient – straw is high in fibre and has a very low calorie level compared to other forages as it contains higher proportions of indigestible components such as lignin. It is great for mixing with good quality hay or haylage to dilute the calories supplied to good doers especially in situations where it is hard to buy in separate forage such as on a livery yard where forage is provided as part of the livery arrangement. It is recommended to use around 30% straw in the mix with other forages.

Obviously, long length straw should be avoided for those with poor dentition but it can be soaked and/or steamed for those with respiratory health issues. The only downside to be aware of is that one study found that horses fed straw as the sole or predominant forage source were more likely to have gastric ulcers. In the UK, straw is rarely fed as the sole or predominant forage source fed to horses so it is not something many people need to be concerned about.


Avian influenza: Prevention Zone declared across Great Britain

avian influenza blog

Following an increase in the number of detections of avian influenza (bird flu) in wild birds and on commercial premises, the Chief Veterinary Officers from England, Scotland and Wales have declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across Great Britain to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds.


Avian influenza Prevention Zone has been declared across Great Britain making it a legal requirement for all bird keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures.

Read more online at the website.

visit website

PRESS RELEASE: Carr’s Billington Launches New Dairy Rumen Conditioner


PRESS RELEASE: 14 September 2022

Carr’s Billington launches new dairy rumen conditioner

A new dairy rumen conditioner has been launched by Carr’s Billington, to optimise pH, maintain fibre digestion, and support year-round milk from grass and forage.

The launch of EVOLVE365™ comes at a time when farmers are experiencing variable forage both in terms of volume and quality to feed cows through the winter, following an exceptionally dry summer.

According to Carr’s Billington’s chief technical officer, Jimmy Goldie, EVOLVE365 can improve feed efficiency in any system, with the ability to maximise the nutrient value of all forages.

“The new product has been carefully formulated to withstand the challenges of acidic and variable silage or grass-based diets, that are high in sugar and low in fibre, to deliver improved herd performance,” he says.

EVOLVE365 contains a unique blend of three technologies to help increase milk production and quality, improve gut health and overall immunity, for enhanced productivity: Advanced rumen stabiliser – TechTonic®, protected live yeast – ActiSaf®, and metabolic regulator –Capcin.

Mr Goldie explains that this unique formulation delivers a wealth of performance benefits including: improved feed utilisation, reduced acidosis risk, as well as rumen and gut microbiome support.

“This tailored combination of ingredients should help to support farmers in maintaining productivity through the challenges of forage utilisation this winter and beyond,” concludes Mr Goldie.


Issued by: Hannah Wilson, Pinstone E: T: 07581 654248

Notes to editor

Carr’s Billington Agriculture is a leading supplier of agricultural products to farmers in the UK.

The business operates compound feed mills at Carlisle, Lancaster and Stone and has blend plants at Kirkbride in Cumbria, Micklow in Staffordshire, Lancaster and Wales. It has 28 country stores throughout Northern England, Scotland and Wales, several of which have machinery sales and service departments and fuel distributions depots.

Carr’s Billington has a specialist team of nutritionists who formulate feeds in line with the latest research and development, constantly updating the range so there is a product to meet its customers’ requirements.

Its farm assurance scheme provides full and comprehensive traceability, ensuring customers can have complete confidence in product quality. Carr’s Billington’s quality control system allows it to trace every feed delivery and the source of raw materials used during manufacturing.

TIME4HOOFHEALTH: Are You Foot-bathing Your Sheep Effectively?

footbathing your sheep effectively

Stuart Stamper – Product Manager at Carr’s Billington – offers advice on effective foot-bathing to help support hoof health and subsequent production in sheep.

According to statistics from AHDB, lameness in sheep is said to cost U.K. sheep farmers an eye-watering £28 million every year, or £89.90 per ewe*.

Sheep seriously impacted by infectious conditions such as footrot or contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD) are easy to spot because they hobble or ‘kneel’. However, even mild cases of the condition can impact production and spread quickly, so early and accurate detection and management is vital. Avoiding these conditions is especially important as we approach tupping time, as lame sheep at this time are less likely to produce lambs next spring.

Vaccination is a common means of preventing lameness caused by infectious disease, however with a potential Footvax® supply issue looming in 2022, sheep farmers are being advised to look at alternative methods of managing lameness.

Routine foot-trimming to help control lameness and promote better mobility is a common but incorrect management strategy. This can actually spread bacteria and exacerbate lameness prevalence within flocks.

This is also true of foot bathing unless it is carried out correctly. Gathering sheep for foot bathing alone can actually increases the risk of infection.

Foot bathing sheep should be integrated into part of a routine and thought of as a method of disinfection, rather than a stand-alone preventative operation. For example, after sheep have been gathered in a confined area following shearing or scanning.

How to achieve an effective foot-bathing protocol

For foot bathing to be effective, first and foremost it needs to be quick, easy and effective for busy operators to carry out.

If using a 10 percent zinc sulphate solution to manage footrot, sheep need to stand in the product for up to 30 minutes for it to be effective. In reality, simply walking-through a standing product is very ineffective and actually a money waster.

POWER HOOF™ – the latest hoof health range from Carr’s Billington – includes a footbath solution that offers highly effective infection prevention at a lower dosage.

We recommend sheep walk through slowly and calmly for 3-4 steps, then standing on a hard, clean and dry surface for approximately 20-30 minutes prior to being turned out onto pasture. For more effective prevention, hooves should be as dry and as clean as possible before walking through the foot bath.

One footbath of POWER HOOF will accommodate up to 1000 sheep, dependant on cleanliness.

Please be aware that POWER HOOF contains Copper and should therefore not be consumed by sheep and should be disposed of away from where animals will graze.


POWER HOOF footbath solution has been formulated by specialist eminent podiatrists to effectively disinfect and harden hooves at a lower dosage; promoting overall health, mobility and productivity. POWER HOOF is composed of ingredients that get into the wound and draw out the infection, rather than healing the outside for the internal infection to fester:

  • Formalin to improve claw quality and reduce the incidence of interdigital lesions.
  • Copper Sulphate to reduce the rate and severity of active digital dermatitis lesions.
  • Zinc to improve claw integrity to help reduce foot rot, heel cracks and interdigital dermatitis.
  • Heavy-duty surfactants which continue to adhere to and work on the hooves after foot bathing.
  • Contains no QUAT’s or antibiotics, helping to reduce the rate at which antibiotic resistance can occur on farm.

This unique composition makes POWER HOOF better for animals, healthier for humans, and safer for the environment.

To find out more and get your POWER HOOF on order today, call Stuart Stamper on 07977 394536, or contact your local country store or advisor.

TIME4DRILLING – Achieve grass reseeding success

TIME4DRILLING - Achieve reseeding success

The older a grass ley, the less productive ryegrass species it will have in it, and the less response you will get from any nitrogen applied.

Reseeding will ensure an increased yield, quality, and feed value, saving concentrate feed costs further down the line. So it is important to get reseeding right from the outset, to ensure the swards are established successfully and maximum productivity is achieved.

Read this handy reminder guide, put together by our grassland and forage crop product specialists, to make sure you’re fully prepared this year.

Understand soil composition

Grass establishment, and therefore reseeding or overseeding success, depends on soil type and nutrient status. Soil samples will determine the suitability of the fields for grass seed establishment and therefore whether additional inputs will be needed prior to drilling.

The ideal soil conditions prior to overseeding and reseeding are:

  • pH levels between 6-6.5 – this can greatly influence the availability of nutrients within the soil profile
  • Phosphorus and potassium levels at an index of two to make sure nutrients are readily available for root growth


When direct drilling grass seed, remember to check soil compaction first. Consider subsoiling if compaction levels are deeper than 23cm and aerating if levels are between 7-12cm to prevent root growth from being impeded. Click here for a soil structure scoring guide to assess soil compaction.

Choose your method

There are three main methods of reseeding:

  • Ploughing – conventional cultivation
  • Minimum cultivation (min till) – this involves desiccating old swards and lightly cultivating fields to create a fine, level seed bed
  • Direct drilling – no cultivation involved, grass seed is drilled directly into an existing ley that has been desiccated, grazed and harrowed

Ploughing is ideal for burying trash to help reduce competition with the new ley.

Minimum cultivation is generally carried out on fields that don’t have a heavy weed burden that would compete with the newly sown seed, and on wet fields that would suffer from subsoil compaction if ploughed. This method also reduces the risk of run-off and the release of sequestered carbon when compared to ploughing.

Direct drilling is a quick, cost-effective method that can be used to reseed or overseed leys. However, when overseeding there is a risk the grass seed may not effectively establish if competing with the old sward.

Create the optimal seed bed

After soil sampling, seed bed preparation is the next crucial step to consider when reseeding fields.

The two most important points to remember when sowing grass seed are:

  • Grass seed should be no more than 10mm below the surface for successfully germination
  • Rolling is crucial for good seed to soil contact to ensure germination

If conventional methods of reseeding are used, existing swards should be desiccated and left for 14 days before being ploughed, cultivated and stone picked.

The soil may then need to be pressed or rolled to create a smooth fine, firm, and level seed bed. A ‘fluffy’ seed bed will cause the seed to sit too deep, resulting in poor germination.

Once the seeds have been sown, consider rolling the field again in the opposite direction to increase seed to soil contact.

If direct drilling or minimum tillage is the approach, consider using a one pass machine that prepares the seedbed and improves seed to soil contact. Always assess the soil profile for compaction and consider aeration or subsoiling if required.

Don’t forget, if you need advice on which grass seed drilling machinery to use you can speak to one of our machinery specialists.
Find your nearest depot here.

Achieve grass reseeding success

Carefully select grass varieties

Grass varieties should be carefully chosen depending on the grassland production system and their compatibility with the soil type.

When carrying out a reseed, consider the whole sward structure as the grass seed selected and sward density will determine the long-term viability of the established sward.

For example, diploid ryegrass varieties are robust and ensure good ground cover, with their competitive tillering providing good carrying capacity for livestock.

In the case of overseeding, the aim is to choose grass varieties which will compete with the current grasses during establishment, for example tetraploid perennial ryegrass, hybrid ryegrass, or Italian ryegrass.

If reseeding or overseeding a drought-prone field, consider using deep rooted varieties such as Tall Fescues, Timothy, or Cocksfoot. Deep rooted grasses will also generally tolerate heavier soil types that can often be colder or more prone to waterlogging.

Legumes such as white and red clover can be included in the grass mixture to increase protein content of the sward and fix nitrogen.

If you’re unsure about which mixture to select, our comprehensive Grass and Forage Seed Catalogue provides a full range of our high performing Mega Leys grass mixtures.

For your FREE Grass & Forage Seed Catalogue 2022 please email

Ring: Forage Line on 0800 023 4416

View online

TIME4SHOW & SALE: Show Cattle Preparation Guide

Show cattle preparation guide

Show cattle preparation guide

Cattle show judges look for correct conformation, body condition and mobility in the ring. Making sure cattle are properly prepared will help to enhance positive attributes and strengthen any weak areas, improving the chance of a prize on show day or a higher price at sale.

Read our pre-show guide to ensure your cattle will be looking their best on the day:


Supplying a balanced diet is key to creating a champion. However, it’s important to remember that feeding should achieve muscle growth and enhance development but not impact health.

To reduce health issues, cattle should be fed depending on their breed, age and type i.e., whether they’re breeding bulls or suckler cows.

If cattle are being reared for the show ring from birth, they should be switched from milk and calf pellets onto a slower growing mix to prevent them becoming too fat too quickly. At eight to nine months of age cattle should be moved onto a pre-show ration.

If older cattle are being readied for showing, they will need to be fed a pre-show ration three to four months before the show date.

If you need more advice on how to ensure cattle are in the best condition for the showring, speak to your local Carr’s Billington’s on-farm specialist who will take the following into account:

  • Forage analysis and availability
  • Animal targets and farm focus
  • Input costs

Our team will be able to suggest the most suitable, ready prepared coarse mixes, such as the Supreme show mix, or explain more about custom mixes and blends.  

Top feeding tips:

  • Slower digested starch sources including rolled oats, barley and maize products and quality digestible fibre sources, such as sugar beet pulp, aid development and provide energy without digestive upsets
  • Adding linseed into the diet can improve coat shine
  • Biotin and zinc can also help enhance skin, hair and hoof quality
  • Consider using a live yeast, such as Actisaf®, to help stabilise the rumen pH, maximising feed utilisation and efficient digestion

Washing, clipping and feet checks

Washing and clipping are also important preparatory steps that should be taken before any show or sale.

One month ahead of show day

Show cattle should initially be washed at least four weeks before a show using shampoo and warm water to make clipping the coat easier. Once this has been done, clip away any remaining winter coat and begin training the top line hair to make it easier to manage nearer the show date.

Check feet condition at this point too. Foot problems may hinder the way the cow moves which will bring your score down while in the ring. Catching any problems early will ensure enough time to get them rectified.

A week before show day

Cattle should be washed, blow dried and clipped again up to a week before the show to allow enough time for the hair to grow out and highlight any areas that need last minute adjustments.

Blow-drying a cow after washing will dry them off and make the hair stand up for easier and more accurate clipping.

Clipping is used to improve the overall appearance of the cow, and the general idea is to make heifers look more ‘feminine’ and bulls more ‘masculine’.

Top clipping tips:

  • Clipping the shoulder tighter and leaving a longer top line will help heifers look more feminine
  • Start with the tail, then move to the chest, brisket and navel, sheath, top of the neck and onto the forarm/shoulder. After this move onto the belly/side wall before focussing on the back legs, hind quarters and upper hip. Finish with the top line and top of the tail followed by the head and neck
  • Lubricate the clipper blade around every 30 seconds to keep them sharper for longer and prevent them overheating

On show day

Make sure you leave plenty of time for final cleaning and clipping on the day of the show and don’t forget to take the following final steps just before heading into the ring:

  • Increase the tail volume by backcombing the hair and set it with hairspray
  • Use black and/or white spray to touch up any blemishes
  • Run a soft bristle brush over the coat for a last time to remove any flecks of straw or dust
  • Spray the coat with a final mist spray to increase shine

Below is a handy checklist of show cattle supplies to help you get show ready:

  • Shampoo
  • Clippers
  • Blade lubricant
  • Blow dryer
  • Brushes and combs
  • White coat
  • Feeders and waters
  • Halters, lead ropes and sticks
  • Feed and supplements
  • Hair products including hair, white, black and final mist sprays
  • Suitable livestock handling footwear

If you are short of any show supplies, make sure you drop by one of your local Carr’s Billington stores, where we have all of the essentials in stock.