Agriculture - Combinable Crops, Grass Seeds, Maize & Fodder Crops, Agri Chemicals

Grass Reseeding to increase profits

Posted: 29 Jan 2014

• Grass reseeding is one of the best paying investments available to livestock farmers

• To maximise grass production and utilisation target a reseeding rate of 10% of the farm area each year

• Get the basics right when reseeding; herbicides, lime, fertiliser, cultivation and sowing

• Choose a grass mixture with the best grass varieties available

• The best grazing mixtures will include Astonenergy and Glenveagh. Astonenergy has the highest digestibility and palatability, Glenveagh has the best ground cover of all available varieties.

Grass is the key ingredient in Irish livestock farming and it sets us apart from most other countries. Grazed grass is the cheapest feed for livestock and grass silage is among the cheapest winter feeds. The benefits are seen in reduced production costs and in the green and environmentally friendly image of our milk and meat products. The rainfall that so often makes grass utilisation difficult is what allows such a consistent supply of grass from year to year.
Grassland management is about decision making
Do not underestimate the challenge of top class grassland management; it requires a combination of successful decision making and constant learning. There are grass management decisions to be made every day on a dairy farm and it draws on the experience, knowledge and skills of the farmer. The key to success is to learn from your past decisions and the experiences of others and then to make better decisions in future; even if only slightly better. Typical everyday decisions will be about the amount of grass to allocate per cow or how much nitrogen to apply. The bigger decisions will be about stocking rates on the farm, supplementary feeds and most importantly reseeding. The decisions about reseeding are seasonal, the best advice is to make a plan in February each year deciding what fields need to be reseeded and what time of year it will be done.

The decision to reseed
Grass reseeding is an important grassland management tool to increase the productivity of grass swards. Reseeded pastures will produce higher annual yields of grass compared to old swards. Grass digestibility and intake potential will improve. Essentially you are sowing the very best grass varieties that are available and replacing broadleaf weeds, grass weeds and older less productive perennial ryegrass plants. The message from research and advisory organisations in the past ten years is that reseeding pays; it delivers increased stock carrying capacity, reduces costs and increases profitability. Based on reseeding rates in Ireland in the past few years this message is being taken up by farmers. There is however much more potential to exploit this important management tool to continue improving efficiency and this should be an integral part of dairy expansion plans.

Reseeding advice – Get the basics right
Identify paddocks to reseed - Poor yield performance and low Perennial Ryegrass content (less than 50%).
Timing of reseeding - The farm needs a good supply of grass and suitable soil conditions to carry out the cultivation and seed sowing operation. Both requirements are weather dependent. Spring reseeding generally leads to more successful establishment and gives better opportunities for post emergence weed control. Ideally graze once or twice, reseed in April and be back grazing in June. Generally when you plan on spring reseeding you are more likely to get it done.

• Spray off the old sward with Glyphosate.
• Get a soil test done and apply Lime, Phosphate and Potash as recommended. Apply Nitrogen at or after sowing.
• Select a suitable grass seed mixture with the best available varieties and sow at 14-16kg per acre.
• A fine firm seedbed is essential whether ploughing or not.
• Ideally cover the seeds and always roll well.
• Monitor closely for pest attack from the date of sowing and take action where necessary. Slugs, Leatherjackets, Frit Fly and Rabbits are the main threats.
• Post emergence weed control is essential particularly for docks and thistles. Normally apply herbicide 5-6 weeks after sowing. Get advice on the most suitable product.

Grass Varieties
Grass varieties are constantly being evaluated in recommended list trials, grassland research centre trials and on farms. There is new information coming available all the time about grass varieties. This influences the choice of varieties for the ideal grass mixture whether for grazing or silage. Make sure all varieties are tried and tested in Ireland.
Grazing mixtures: Astonenergy and Glenveagh are essential in the mixture. Include one other variety from the recommended list with the choice dependent on the sward requirements. Astonenergy is a tetraploid and has the highest digestibility and palatability of all available varieties. It has been the best performing variety in cow feeding trials at Teagasc Moorepark. It gives excellent grass intake and cows will graze out paddocks no problem. Glenveagh is a new high yielding diploid bred by Teagasc Oakpark and has the highest ground cover of available varieties. It will give a dense sward to resist poaching and weed ingress.

Silage mixtures: Choose 3 or 4 varieties from the recommended list and keep the heading date interval shorter than 5 days. The current best three varieties are Solomon, Rosetta and Carrick. Solomon and Carrick are bred at Teagasc Oakpark and Rosetta is bred at AFBI Northern Ireland. All show excellent yield and spring growth.

Dave Barry
Goldcrop Ltd