Barenbrug more than a century of knowledge and experience in grass innovation

Great In Grass

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With more than a century of knowledge and experience in grass innovation, meaning you'll be dealing with a company that understands grass, so you can rest easy with the knowledge that a quality product will be delivered for you.
About Barenbrug UK

Established in the UK in 1983, Barenbrug UK is now established as one of the largest grass seed producers in the UK, distributing more than 4,000 tonnes of grass seed each year through an efficient network in both amenity and agricultural markets.

Barenbrug have a team of regional technical experts as well as production and warehouse locations across the UK.

Barenbrug are the UK’s largest amenity seed producer, producing clean, quality grass seed for all sports, highlighting their commitment to UK industry. Alongside supporting the UK farming industry, Barenbrug also aim to produce all their grass seed to the Higher Voluntary Standard (HVS), which is unique to the UK, guaranteeing a higher level of purity than European Union standards.

At Barenbrug, we work together as a team to serve our clients wherever they need us. We have a team of technical experts based around the UK, as well as office locations across the UK and as part of the wider Barenbrug Group worldwide. We make our collective knowledge, experience and global network available to our clients.

Our head office, administration centre and main production facility is in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk as well as in Falkirk, Scotland. Our research site at Cropvale, Evesham, trials both agriculture and amenity varieties and mixtures, providing a solid testing ground for our material.

Download the new 2021 catalogue;

England & Wales


Great In Grass

Germinal is a longstanding company with a great history. Our heritage has been built on the strength of great people who through their skills, knowledge and hard work have made Germinal the market leader it is today.

Germinal Holdings Limited was founded in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1825. Since then, the company has spearheaded some of the most groundbreaking work in seed development and has led the way in major contributions to the farming and amenity industries. It is now the largest family owned British and Irish Forage & Amenity Seed Company.

Direct descendants of the original founder Samuel McCausland still work in managing Germinal today.


Samuel McCausland Ltd opens for business in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland was the biggest ryegrass seed producer in Europe during this period.

Samuel McCausland Ltd opens for business in Bristol, England following the decline of Northern Irish seed production.

Germinal Holdings Ltd is founded following the merger of Samuel McCausland Ltd and Joseph Morton Ltd of Banbridge, NI.

British Seed Houses is formed following merger of McCausland and Morton in England. Germinal acquire David Bell Ltd (Scotland and England).

Germinal acquires James Coburn & Sons Ltd of Banbridge, NI.

British Seed Houses establishes new site in Lincolnshire, England.

David Bell Ltd (England) is merged with British Seed Houses.

Germinal Ireland Ltd is formed

Extensive new site is acquired to accommodate expansion of Germinal Ireland

Germinal Holdings Ltd forges agreement with the Welsh Plant Breeding Station (IBERS) to secure world marketing rights for new varieties.

Major investment in production and storage facilities for British Seed Houses at Lincoln.

Germinal acquires a shareholding in the New Zealand based grain and seed business Cates Grain and Seed.

Germinal established Germinal New Zealand.
AberDart perennial ryegrass receives the The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) Variety Cup in recognition of its improved quality combined with excellent agronomic performance. AberDart was the first grass variety to win the NIAB Variety Cup.

David Bell Ltd (Scotland) is merged with British Seed Houses.

The Lincoln site makes further investment in new warehousing and offices.
IBERS receives a number of awards for their development of new varieties: The Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) Award for Technology and Innovation (2007), Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education (2009), UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBRSC) Excellence with Impact Award (2011), Times Higher Education Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology Award (2013) and The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) Variety Cup (2015).

Germinal repositions and launches a new brand identity impacting all communications across the group and to the market.


The Samuel McCausland Ltd building in Belfast, Northern Ireland (1825)

Great In Grass


DLF Seeds A/S (formerly DLF-TRIFOLIUM A/S) is a global seed company dealing in forage and amenity seeds, sugar and forage beet seed, seed and ware potatoes and other crops. The company is headquartered in Roskilde, Denmark. DLF is the global market leader and provides grass and clover seeds to more than 100 countries. DLF operates within four different business areas. DLF is the undisputed market leader in forage and turf seed with an estimated share of approximately 50% in Europa and 30% on a global scale. DLF provides grass seeds for major sporting events worldwide, including the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, the FIFA Football World Cup for both men and women, The Olympic Games. The Premier League and the list goes on.

2021 catalogues:

Foragemax range

HF Seeds England & Wales

HF Seeds Scotland

Your Countryside - Game Cover, Environmental, Green Manure
and Forage Crops

Masterline Amenity


Great In Grass

Winter feeding helps to concentrate the mind when it comes to the cost and value of dairy feed. High quality forage is the cornerstone of efficient production for most UK systems. Moving the emphasis from quantity to focus on quality is key to enhancing the production potential of each ley, says National Agricultural Sales Manager, Ben Wixey.

When looking to develop the production potential of leys and increase milk volumes, improving the metabolisable energy (ME) yield per hectare is vital. Good grazing covers and dry matter tonnage in the clamp is important, but the real win in terms of milk production comes from increasing the ME yield. It means you have the best energy output possible from your grass and helps unlock those extra, cost-effective, litres from forage.

Maintaining quality
Good management and replacing older leys are two important aspects of keeping your swards performing as well as they can.

High-quality leys produce the best ME yields, but must be well managed. Simply drilling a good quality seed isn’t enough. The right management across the growing season has a huge positive impact on ME yields. A good slurry and fertiliser plan, as well as a grazing plan and harvesting at the right time for the grass plant, drives ME. Putting grazing cattle in at the right grass covers and taking them out when they hit target residual drives quality across the whole growing season. The move towards a multi-cut approach to grass silage, where grass is cut more often across the season in order to produce a higher quality crop, has also helped drive yield from forage on many dairy farms.

Over time, however, good management isn’t enough. As leys mature the level of perennial ryegrass decreases, being replaced by indigenous species such as annual meadow grass, rough stalked meadow grass and Yorkshire fog.

Research shows indigenous species have lower tonnage and ME yields. This impacts the production potential, affecting milk yields and increasing the need for supplementary feeding.

Table 1 - Effect of ley age on yield, quality and milk production (source: DairyCo)

As the table shows, even small decreases can have financial implications. A decrease in yield from 13.0 to 12.5 DM/ha, combined with a reduction in ME from 12.0 to 11.8 ME/kg DM can result in lost revenue of £401 per hectare.

Considering a reseed
You can’t substitute poor quality grass with increased quantities and maintain the same level of production. Regular reseeding helps ensure cows gain the most from grass and maintain good levels of milk production.

Despite the initial outlay, the cost of reseeding needs to be weighed up against the benefits it can bring. Compare the average DM and ME yields of your current ley, with the potential of a new ley, as well as the increased revenue from higher milk yields. In most cases a reseed is likely to see a return on investment within the first year, with higher returns for more mature leys.

Table 2 - Benefits of reseeding in terms of increased milk yields

As the table shows, even small decreases can have financial implications. A decrease in yield from 13.0 to 12.5 DM/ha, combined with a reduction in ME from 12.0 to 11.8 ME/kg DM can result in lost revenue of £401 per hectare.

Considering a reseed
You can’t substitute poor quality grass with increased quantities and maintain the same level of production. Regular reseeding helps ensure cows gain the most from grass and maintain good levels of milk production.

Despite the initial outlay, the cost of reseeding needs to be weighed up against the benefits it can bring. Compare the average DM and ME yields of your current ley, with the potential of a new ley, as well as the increased revenue from higher milk yields. In most cases a reseed is likely to see a return on investment within the first year, with higher returns for more mature leys.

Table 2 - Benefits of reseeding in terms of increased milk yields

As the table shows, even small decreases can have financial implications. A decrease in yield from 13.0 to 12.5 DM/ha, combined with a reduction in ME from 12.0 to 11.8 ME/kg DM can result in lost revenue of £401 per hectare.

Considering a reseed
You can’t substitute poor quality grass with increased quantities and maintain the same level of production. Regular reseeding helps ensure cows gain the most from grass and maintain good levels of milk production.

Despite the initial outlay, the cost of reseeding needs to be weighed up against the benefits it can bring. Compare the average DM and ME yields of your current ley, with the potential of a new ley, as well as the increased revenue from higher milk yields. In most cases a reseed is likely to see a return on investment within the first year, with higher returns for more mature leys.

Table 2 - Benefits of reseeding in terms of increased milk yields
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Choosing the right varieties
Picking the right seed varieties is important. If you don’t start with the best varieties you can’t achieve the best results. Choose varieties from the recommended grass and clover lists (RGCL 2020-2021) and look for those with the highest ME yields per hectare, ie. those which are high yielding with good quality. Again, even small differences in ME can have a substantial impact on the amount of milk produced.

Table 3 compares the ME yield figures for the Aber HSG varieties found in the popular grazing mixture, Aber HSG3 Long Term Grazing, with the average ME yield of all perennial ryegrasses listed in the RGCL. The Aber HSG varieties used in this mixture offer an ME yield 3-10% above average.

Table 3 - Effect of higher ME-yielding grass varieties on production potential

Great In Grass

Sam Chesney wins Farmers Weekly 2020 Grassland Farmer of the Year

County Down beef and sheep producer Sam Chesney was announced the winner of the 2020 Grassland Manager of the Year Award at the Farmers Weekly Awards on Tuesday night.

Ben Wixey, National Agricultural Sales Manager at Germinal who sponsored the award, has high praise for Sam and the other finalists, Sam Carey of North Wales and James Muir of Staffordshire:

“All three farmers demonstrated a real passion for what they do, with high quality grass and homegrown protein at the centre of their businesses. It’s important to recognise this was a very competitive group of finalists with exceptional knowledge and commitment to driving productivity from their land. To put it plainly, they were all brilliant, which made the judges’ job very difficult!

“In the end, Sam Chesney was selected as the winner due to his attention to detail across the entire business, including costs and other figures. He is on a mission to buy in as little protein as possible and only feeds concentrates when there is extra production to be gained from it. He is also trying other strategies to achieve this, such as baling pure red clover crops, outwintering on brassicas and planting multi-species leys of grass, clovers and herbs.

“Sam’s heavy involvement within the industry was also very impressive,” Ben concluded. “Generous with his knowledge, he shares his experience with others and works as part of multiple panels, government bodies and farmer groups to benefit the wider industry.”

Sam runs a rotational, spring-calving suckler to beef system on Coolbrae Farm with 130 Limousin cross cows grazing on 45 ha (111 acres) of grassland, with a further 25ha (62 acres) dedicated to silage. He also finishes 70 Angus-dairy calves for Blade Farming, a fully integrated beef supply chain within ABP. To keep costs low, concentrates are only fed to finishing cattle, with as much energy and protein as possible coming from homegrown forage.

“Our objective is to use as much grass as we can to drive productivity from the land,” Sam explains. “We use a 21-day rotation with each field grazed for around three days and reseed only when the data shows performance is down. We rotate fields from perennial ryegrass to brassicas, followed by a multi-species sward or red clover. In 2020, we grew 14.1 tonnes DM/ha (5.7 tonnes DM/acre) with an average ME of 12.1 MJ/kg DM. Grass utilisation averaged at 92% across all of our land, but our top-performing fields achieved 98%.”

Great In Grass

Reseeding Methods

When to reseed
Both spring and autumn provide opportunities for a successful reseed; deciding which is best for you will depend largely on your land and farming system.

Although the timing of a spring reseed is more likely to be influenced by the weather, spring usually provides the widest window due to better weather and soil conditions. When reseeding in the spring, good soil conditions allow the chance to use post-emergence herbicide sprays and control weeds effectively. A spring reseed also means a break or catch crop such as a winter grazing brassica can be grown, and this can be a useful technique to reduce the threat of leatherjackets. It’s important to remember though, a spring reseed initially offers a lower yield potential and, depending on the method used, can mean the soil might be too tender to travel or graze early.

Conversely, the time period available for a successful autumn reseed is usually narrower, but it does allow time over winter for the ley to reach its full production potential and give the soil a chance to settle before travel or grazing. An autumn reseed also means a full season’s yield can be taken from a field before reseeding followed by a full yield the following year. Break crops can also be grown before an autumn reseed with options including brassicas being grazed during mid-summer when grass growth is often lower.

Preparing the seedbed
Before deciding how you’re going to reseed, preparing the ground is critical. Aim to produce a fine, firm and level seedbed. This is key to maximising the seed-to-soil contact and gives you the best chance of successful germination.

In many cases the actual method used to reseed has little impact on yield in the first full year. More important is making sure whichever method you use is done properly and managed well post-drilling.

Ploughing remains one of the most commonly-used methods of cultivation to provide a firm and level seed bed. It’s a particularly good option where soil compaction is an issue. It allows you to remove soil pan and bury both trash and farmyard manure, releasing nutrients back into the soil. It also ensures good seed-to-soil contact.

But ploughing can be expensive and dry out lighter soils, damaging soil biology. There is also a risk of bringing less fertile soil towards the surface, as well as disturbing weed seed banks, bringing them up to where they can germinate. Docks, for example, can lie dormant in the soil for up to 50 years, but still germinate and grow if disturbed.

Minimum tillage (Min-till)
Min-till is often cheaper and allows a quicker return to grazing. It involves very little disturbance of the topsoil so ideal in stony and shallow soils where you’re trying to avoid bringing stones up to the surface.
There are a wide variety of drills on the market, including disc drills, slot seeders and air drills, all of which have their place and work well in the right circumstances. Preparation prior to drilling is particularly important and has a substantial impact on the success of min-till. It is vital any thatch or trash is sufficiently broken up and buried in order to create a fine, level seed bed.

Direct drilling
Direct drilling is a particularly useful method of renewing pastures used for rotational grazing. Preparation is important here too and gives the best chance of successful establishment.

Start by grazing the ley off tightly and spraying with herbicide at around 2,800kgDM/ha. Wait for the herbicide withhold period before removing dead material by either grazing or for silage. The removal of dead material before drilling is important. If left, it can rot down creating an acidic surface layer which can scorch or kill seedlings as they emerge. Before drilling, check the soil pH and apply quick-action lime if necessary, before spreading fertiliser and direct drilling the grass seed. Weeds should be dealt with wherever possible and the new ley grazed off as soon as the mixture stands the pull test, normally at 3-6 cm.

Cereals as a break crop
Cereals as a break crop is useful for establishing a new grass ley and gives you a winter forage crop. But the focus needs to remain on the grass ley you are establishing rather than the crop. This means when you drill the cereal, only use up to two thirds of the normal drilling seed rate and reduce the fertiliser inputs. This helps ensure the cereal crop doesn’t grow too thick a canopy reducing the amount of light reaching the grass seedbed below.

When harvesting the cereal, aim to chop at around 40% DM and 30% starch and use as a fermented silage whole crop. By the time the cereal is harvested, the grass ley underneath should be well established.

Great In Grass

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Plant breeders and suppliers of superior seed varieties for farmers, growers and the food and amenity industries.


LG is a brand of Limagrain; the UK’s leading plant breeder and seed producer, introducing varieties and seeds with improved performance for crops from wheat and barley to maize, from forage crops to amenity grasses and ley mixtures, and from sugar beet and oilseed crops to vining peas and pulses.

Varieties from LG – making a difference.

All Limagrain bred varieties are now promoted to the industry under the well-recognised LG brand, The LG range covers all cereals, maize, oilseed rape, peas and beans, vining peas, forage, root crops and environmental seeds . The LG brand carries the support of the UK’s and Europe’s leading plant breeder and seed producer, and covers market leading varieties across the whole range. The LG logo symbolises the very best genetics, supplied as high quality seed with attentive customer service and technical support.


LG is part of plant breeders Limagrain, a farmer owned co-operative dedicated to developing new varieties of arable, forage and amenity seeds for farmers and growers.

The new varieties that the company introduces every year from its breeding and research programmes offer benefits to farmers and growers: increased yield, stronger agronomic characteristics, and better disease resistance. End users benefit from added value, improved quality, productivity and processability.



Limagrain benefits from both a strong pedigree from the past, and from the development of cutting edge technology. Our history in the UK industry, combines famous names: Nickerson, Sharpes, Advanta®, Hurst, Miln Marsters and Sinclair McGill. We have an unrivalled heritage of seedsmanship to draw upon.

Our early adoption of technology, from advanced trials design, to doubled haploids and molecular biology, gives us the power to produce ever-better varieties with step changes in performance. Limagrain invests over £3.5m per year into research in the UK, and over £215m elsewhere in the world. We are major supporters of public and private research partnerships with universities and institutes.



Agricultural grass seed services Germ Test WsH lab
We have the resources needed to continue to supply new and innovative varieties.


Our intention is to maintain Limagrain’s position as the leading UK plant breeder and seed producer into the future.

Global resources, local expertise.

Group Limagrain – Internationally

Limagrain is a fast growing farmer owned international co-operative group, specialising in both agricultural and horticultural seeds, and in cereal products. As the fourth largest breeder and seeds marketing company in the world, it employs 10,000 people with a turnover of more than 2.5 billion euros annually.

As a company owned by farmers, it has particular governance strongly linked to farming. As in agriculture, long-term vision has been the key to Limagrain’s rapid growth over the recent past. Limagrain’s drive to innovate to create varieties that meet the expectations of farmers and growers, agri-food industrialist and consumers has led to Limagrain’s strong position in farming worldwide.

Limagrain has its roots in the Auvergne plains in central France, but its seeds activity is worldwide, and will continue to make a significant contribution to meeting the global agricultural challenges of the 21st century.

Great In Grass

Spring rotational planners – don’t overlook basic grazing principles

Done right and your spring rotational planner (SRP) plays a major role in helping manage early spring grazing and hit the grass residuals required to optimise second rotation grazing. But these planners do have limitations and if you fail to react appropriately when things don’t go according to plan, grass performance can really suffer.

Early spring is a delicate balancing act. Grass carried through winter needs to be rationed carefully, winter swards grazed to stimulate grass growth and the right residuals achieved to set the farm up for the best grass performance later in the season.

SRPs are a great way to navigate this challenging early grazing period, helping to work out the most efficient way to allocate grazing throughout early spring. A planner divides up the grazing platform and suggests what proportion of first rotation grazing should be allocated each day and week. The aim is to graze grass to a specific residual to encourage later grass growth and performance. A planner takes into account average farm cover (AFC), total length of first rotation and the predicted ‘magic day’ – when grass supply surpasses herd demand.

But while the guidance an SRP provides is useful, it is vital you recognise its limitations. A rotational planner is just a plan. It doesn’t consider, for example, the impact of stocking rates and outside influences (such as the weather) on projected grazing goals made at the start of the season.

A plan made one year will not automatically deliver the same results the next. Rather than simply following its recommendations, no matter what the circumstances, update the plan throughout the spring so it reflects the real-life situation - and react accordingly.

Gaining the best results
For the best grass growth and performance during second rotation grazing, old grass growth and dead material need to be stripped out of swards. The aim is for 100% of the farm to be grazed before magic day and the start of the second rotation. To achieve this, you must make sure the first rotation is long enough in the planner. The goal is to have grazed 30% of the farm during February, 60% by mid-March and the final 40% stretched out to just before magic day, in early April. Be adaptable, as reduced or increased grass growth might alter the date you turn out other stock in order to meet these key goals.

Post-grazing grass residuals should also be used to gauge how much supplementary feeding is provided. The target residual is 3.5cm during the first rotation. If the post-grazing residuals are higher than this, supplementary feeding needs to be reduced to stimulate appetite and demand for grass. Conversely, if residuals drop below 3cm, supplementary feeding needs to be increased to ensure cows are adequately fed.

Great In Grass

Now is the time to think about soil fertility

Soil health drives production. Understanding the physical, biological and chemical status of your soil will support optimal grass output and help your soil reach its full potential.

Research shows a high percentage of Irish grassland soils are severely suboptimal in pH, P and K, severely limiting their production potential. Fertile soil also contains nitrogen (N), as well as other secondary nutrients in smaller quantities.

Soil testing
Soil testing gives you information about the P and K status of your ground, as well as a pH value. In order to make useful comparisons, it’s best to soil sample at the same time each year avoiding very wet and very dry conditions. The ideal time is between September and March, waiting 3-6 months after the last application of P or K before sampling. Once you have your results put together a spring fertiliser plan. With a plan based on your soil analysis, you can apply the correct levels of inputs, such as lime, P or K, boosting grass production and reducing input wastage and costs.

The right pH is important; too low and nutrients remain locked-up in the soil, making them inaccessible to plants. Soil pH is also the most important deficiency to correct and the cheapest! For grassland, aim for a soil pH of 6.2 to 6.5 (pH 5.5 on peaty soils). Apply lime according to soil test recommendations but a maximum of 7.5 t/ha (3 t/acre) should be applied in any one year. For recommendations above this amount, split the application and apply the balance two years later.

Benefits of Correcting pH
Releases up to 80 kg nitrogen (compared to a low pH soil)
Makes P and K in the soil more available
Increases efficiency of applied N, P and K fertiliser
Increases grass DM yield by approx. 1.5 t DM/ha (compared to a low pH soil)
Phosphorus (P)
Phosphorus is necessary for the physiology of plants, including photosynthesis, root and tiller development. Like other nutrients, P can be locked-up in the soil if the pH is too low. Phosphorus use is restricted within the Nitrates Directive.

Potassium (K)
Potassium can be spread all year round without any restrictions on its application, although there are points to consider. In spring, a single K application should not exceed 90 kg/ha. If your requirement is above this level, it is best to apply the balance in the autumn. On rapidly growing swards, receiving high levels of K, grass tetany can occur as it prevents magnesium uptake by the grass crop.

Soil health is not just driven by its nutrient status but also its physical structure. Reducing the impact on soil, through poaching or travelling vehicles, helps improve soil health.

Take a spade and dig a hole to look at any under-performing areas. Check roots are reaching well down into the soil. Good rooting depth is important to reach those soil nutrients. Is the soil friable to the touch and does it break apart easily? What is the worm activity like? Worm activity indicates a healthy soil.

Great In Grass

Tips for effective spring grazing

As February draws to a close it’s hard to believe the grazing season is not too far away. Having the right grazing infrastructure to manage the wet conditions of spring has a huge impact on your ability to use the grass grown.

It’s frustrating to see the energy dense, protein-rich grass growing in the paddock but not be able to access it due to the fear of poaching and what that might do to subsequent grass yields. But flexibility in the way you graze and the right infrastructure means you can take advantage of it, even for just a short period each day. Each extra day at grass in the spring represents a saving of €2.70 per cow (Teagasc).

When allocating grazing area work on intakes of around 6 kgDM/cow/milking as realistic in spring conditions and aim to supplement with 4 to 6 kgDM from concentrate to drive performance. Freshly calved cows will probably eat less than cows later in their lactation. Cows should be on a rising plane of nutrition from calving to breeding, so feed allowances should increase by 0.75 kgDM/cow/week.

Use your Spring Rotation Planner (SRP) to plan how you balance your herd’s requirements with grass availability and to manage the period between turnout and ‘magic day’, when grass supply meets herd demand. It’s a straightforward visual way of planning your grazing in what can be quite a tricky time as you try to balance this ever-increasing resource with herd demand and ground conditions.

Don’t be tempted to skip ahead if grass availability falls off. Your SRP can help you decide when you might need to put in some targeted supplementation to ensure you don’t run out of grass before magic day and compromise subsequent regrowths.

Graze your lighter paddocks first, until cows are accustomed to grazing, before moving to heavier paddocks as they have become more efficient grazers.

On-off grazing
Allowing cows short periods in the paddock, before bringing them back inside has benefits in terms of reduced need for bought-in feed, while minimising poaching. Turn cows out to graze for three to four hour blocks after milking, when their appetite is at its keenest, giving them their 6 kg DM allowance. As soon as you see cows beginning to lie down or group together, it is time to bring them back in.

Managing grazing
When conditions allow longer periods of grazing, look to move cows to fresh grass every 12 hours. This will help increase utilisation as cows won’t be walking grass into the ground.

Backfencing is a great way of stopping cows going back to nip off the new regrowth in previously grazed areas, but in spring it comes into its own by also protecting soil structure. If you’re grazing larger fields and not backfencing, start at back of the field and work forwards in order to reduce the number of times cows travel over a given area.

Good farm roadways, multiple access points to paddocks and adequate water provision all make a huge difference to grazing effectively during the spring, as well as helping to safeguard the cows’ foot and udder health.

Spur Roadways
Hopefully your roadway plan has been developed to give cows access to grass while causing the least amount of damage to the paddock and to provide a safe, comfortable walking surface. In spring, think about using spur roads, which are useful for reaching paddocks not easily accessed off the main farm roadways.

When it comes to paddock access try to avoid overuse and bunching of cows at the point of access, which can cause muddy conditions. Not only does this cause poaching and waste grass, but also means cows enter the parlour dirty.

Plan paddock size and layout carefully, with at least two access points (an entrance and exit). Depending on the speed of your rotation it might be possible to change these points every 12 hours. Making gates as wide as possible helps avoid bunching. In many cases cows moving from the paddock onto the roadway have to perform a 90-degree turn. This isn’t easy for a cow and made harder when in a crowd. The more room you give cows to do this the better to reduce bottlenecks.

Water provision
Making sure you have enough water provision in each paddock eliminates the need to allow cows access to already grazed areas, reducing poaching.

Great In Grass

High Protein Forages Pack A Punch

In light of increasing feed prices and the growing environmental concern surrounding imported protein sources, many farmers are looking to produce their own high protein forages. The good news is there are plenty of options and the production benefits extend beyond providing protein.

There is plenty of scope for UK livestock farmers to be producing high protein forages, either by changing their management systems or growing specialist crops. While the primary goal is often to reduce reliance on bought-in sources of protein, there are other benefits too. For example, adopting a multi-cut approach to grass silaging not only increases grass protein content but also leads to better grass yields and improvements in overall grass silage performance. And both clover and lucerne help reduce fertiliser costs thanks to their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil – by up to 150kgN/ha. Red clover can also help condition soil. Let’s consider each in more detail.

Lucerne: don’t overlook it.

Lucerne is an excellent addition to livestock diets. It is a highly digestible forage due, in part, to its rumen-friendly scratch factor. Even at relatively low inclusion levels, around 1kgDM/cow/day, it produces greater intakes and use of other forages due to more efficient digestion of fibre. It gives a good DM yield and has a high protein and calcium content. Protein levels range between 18-24%, making it a viable replacement for soya meal. And for those producers incorporating maize into cow diets, lucerne is a useful complementary feed being high in nutrients maize crops lack.


Despite its nutritional credentials, and the fact lucerne is extensively grown in many countries with similar conditions to the UK, farmers here often overlook it as a potential forage crop – possibly because there isn’t an established cohort of farmers growing lucerne in this country.

But don’t be put off. Lucerne can perform well in the UK as it is suited to all soil types, as long as ground is free-draining and – like other legumes – crops are sown when soil temperatures are above 8°C. This means most lucerne in the UK should be sown between May and the end of August, as yields will struggle during a cold spring. For the best performance, soil pH needs to be above 6.2 and lucerne should be drilled or broadcast into a fine and firm seedbed to a depth of 0.5cm – 1cm.

With the correct management, lucerne should persist for between four to six years and be able to produce 10-15 tonnes DM/ha, at between 18-24% protein.

Lucerne is most commonly grown as a stand-alone crop and cut for silage, although it does have grazing potential if managed correctly. When it comes to cutting and ensiling, the crop requires special handling. The protein content is in the leaf of the plant and this must not be shredded. Crops should be cut to a stubble height of around 7cm, using a drum mower, and tedding must be avoided. Four to five weeks need to be left between lucerne cuts and plants allowed to flower once a year to ensure the storage of nutrients in the tap root. This helps improve winter hardiness and boost spring growth.


Red clover: great results
An increasing number of farmers are turning to red clover to help them produce high protein grazing and silage. If managed correctly, red clover has the potential to yield between 10-15 tonnes DM/ha and provide silage with protein between 16-20%. The protein in red clover is more available to livestock due to an enzyme slowing its breakdown in the rumen, increasing the amount absorbed in the lower intestine.

Red clover has been shown to support strong growth rates in livestock over the winter period and several studies have highlighted an increase in milk yield from dairy cows fed red clover silage compared to those fed conventional grass silage. The feed value of red clover silage is often much higher than analysis suggests due to the composition of its protein.


Most farmers incorporate red clover as part of a wider grass or clover ley. Its larger seed and fast-growing seedlings also make it suitable for overseeding/overstitching. Mixed leys, in which red clover is included at a rate of 7kg/ha, should be sown at 30kg/ha. Red clover can also be grown as a monoculture, typically when the goal is to produce high protein silage. If this is the case, sowing rates need to be much higher, at 15kg/ha. Whichever way it is used, it needs to be part of a rotation, with a six- to seven-year break between leys in order to reduce the risk of sclerotinia and stem eelworm, which are both soil-borne.

As well as providing plenty of protein, the other appeal of red clover is its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. Rhizobium bacteria and red clover root nodules co-operate symbiotically and produce nitrogen, reducing the need for nitrogen inputs to stimulate plant growth.

Care does need to be taken with red clover to prevent livestock suffering bloat. To minimise the risk, limit access to red clover grass leys when livestock are first introduced. Don’t turn animals out on to red clover when they are hungry; provide a supplementary, high dry matter feed prior to turn out.


Embrace a multi-cut approach to silaging
While specialist crops are very good at increasing the protein production potential of a farm, complementary, protein-boosting grass management methods can’t be overlooked.

Another way to increase production of homegrown protein is to change the approach to silaging. Multi-cut is becoming an increasingly popular choice for increasing silage quality and yields. Fresh weight grass yields can stand at around 17.5 tonnes in a five-cut system, while a three-cut will typically produce closer to 14 tonnes.

The added benefit of the multi-cut approach is it also stimulates higher protein levels in grass. By cutting grass more regularly, when it is younger, the plants have a greener stem and produce grass with a higher protein content. So, while a three-cut system would expect to produce grass with crude protein around 14%, this rises to nearer 16% in a five-cut system.

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We have amounts of primed Fodder Beet seed available for the coming year.

A limited amount of primed fodder beet seed, that promotes early germination, is now available for three of Limagrain's top varieties; Robbos, Brick and Tadorne.

The seed has been primed using the Germ’activ system that encourages faster germination and crop establishment. “Fodder beet is at its most vulnerable when seedlings are in their early growth stage and can be affected by pest and disease damage,” says Limagrain’s forage crop director Martin Titley.

“The aim is to get the crop to its five-leaf stage as quickly as possible and past the period that the plants are at most risk of damage.”

Germactiv logo Using primed seed has been shown to promote establishment and has helped to create a more uniform crop. “These are key in the success of a high feed value fodder beet crop for either lifting or grazing in situ” he adds.

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The foundation of NutriFibre is the Soft-leaf tall fescue, a development stemming from the Royal Barenbrug Group’s international breeding programme. NutriFibre technology combines mineral efficiency, high protein production, digestibility, effective fibre-rich cell walls and drought tolerance from the deep rooting ability of the Soft-leaf tall fescue.


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Herbage Seed Production - Rooted in the UK
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Herbage seed production is a high-risk, high reward crop that can yield gross margins of more than £1,000/Ha for good mixed farmers with a keen eye for detail. Over 8,000 Ha of herbage seed is grown annually in the UK for the agricultural and amenity markets via a network of over 100 growers.

Growers who produce herbage seed have excellent control of Blackgrass and Vulpia for fields selected for herbage seed production. Herbage seed production is quite different to producing a forage crop, in that rather than producing lots of vegetation we want to promote tillering in each plant which then, in turn, produce seed heads. Plant populations are therefore a lot lower than for forage crops, typically only 10 kgs/ha is used to establish a seed crop. A four-year break must be left between grass crops. Isolation from other grass crops is also key, if similar ploidy (diploid and tetraploid) is grown next to each other, isolation measures need to be implemented to prevent cross-pollination from occurring.

Drilling usually takes place in the autumn and all crops should be established by the end of September. Harvesting takes place in the following July/August dependant on the heading date of the variety being produced. There is also an option to drill in the spring using a companion crop such as spring barley . After the barley has been harvested, the grass crop will be visible in the stubble which can then be grazed using sheep from October - February dependant on the ground conditions.

The crop is inspected by a licensed seed inspector prior to harvest. The inspector will look at different plants in the standing crop and check that the correct isolations are in place for neighbouring crops. Harvesting takes place over two consecutive years with an option on a third year if the crop is deemed clean enough at the end of the second-year harvest. Harvesting techniques vary between two systems, mow when the seed is around 45% moisture content and dry in field for a period of 5-6 days and pick up using a draper header or use a stripper header direct into the standing crop when the moisture content is around 30%. Crop drying is the most critical and important part of the process, a drying floor must be used to dry the crop. The crop must be loaded onto the floor at a depth of no more than 1 metre deep and ambient air blown through the crop. The crop must be turned at least once per day to allow even drying. The moisture content of the seed must be below 14%, anything above this will lead to germination issues and rejection of the crop which will make it worthless. Once the crop is below 14% the seed can be taken off the drying floor and stored in a barn in a heap like grain storage. Monitoring of the heap for temperature and moisture content post drying is also a critical part of the process.

Once the crop is dry (or conditioned) an as-grown sample will be taken to confirm the moisture content, purity, and germination. This test will also highlight any weed seed issues.
Crop cleaning takes place from August through until early April. The as-grown seed is collected and taken to a cleaning plant where the crop is cleaned, packed, and certified. The crop passes over a series of sieves and cleaning cylinders to remove inert matter such as stick, stalk and chaff along with some weed seed species. Seed lots are created and samples of each are sent to a licensed testing laboratory, where each lot is examined under a standard known as HVS (Higher Voluntary Standard) for herbage seed prior to certification. The grower pays for the crop to be cleaned based on the purity of the as-grown result. This is to encourage growers to produce clean, weed free samples.

Growers are paid in three instalments in October, January, and May on a 30%, 30% 40% basis.

Producing herbage seed provides a good two- or three-year break crop, provides improved soil health and provides forage options for livestock. If carried out correctly herbage seed production provides an excellent profitable break crop option.

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Dr Gillian Young, AFBI grass breeder

Improving grass varieties increases profitability on farm

Reseeding with improved ryegrass varieties has been shown to increase on-farm production efficiencies year on year in terms of grass utilization and livestock output. The AFBI ryegrass breeding programme, at Loughgall, in N. Ireland, has been successfully improving ryegrasses for more than 60 years, crossing the best with the best to make steady improvements in important economic traits, such as yield and quality. Into the future, environmental traits, such as nutrient efficiency, carbon sequestration and tolerance to stress, will all become even more important than they are today, and breeding for improvements in ryegrass will have an important part to play in how we deal with such emerging threats to farm production.

The AFBI ryegrass breeding programme has been in place at Loughgall since 1952, and since then more than 50 varieties have been included on recommended lists, making it one of the most successful programmes in the UK and Ireland. These varieties are persistent and high-yielding for grazing and conservation and are specifically bred for best performance on farms in the UK. New modern varieties produce 10% more in yield per hectare than varieties used twenty years ago, and also possess improvements in other traits, such as disease-resistance and winter-hardiness. Considerable effort has also been invested into breeding for improved digestibility at every stage in the breeding programme, as highly digestible forage produces more meat and milk. Improvements in all of these traits translate directly to increased grass utilization and decreased feed costs for farmers who regularly reseed with new improved varieties.

Grass breeding takes a long time: it can take up to 15 years to produce each variety at a cost of around half a million pounds each, highlighting the huge investment that breeders make to produce only the very best possible grasses for use on farm. Initial crosses are made between pairs of selected mother plants under controlled conditions, crossing the best with the best to combine traits of interest and ultimately produce improved daughter plants, which become new varieties. Large-scale testing of these varieties is then conducted across the UK and Ireland to ensure that only the best-performing varieties on farm make it to market. All varieties ultimately go through a stringent national listing process, by which varieties are independently tested at sites across the UK to ensure that only the best and most-improved varieties make it into recommended lists for use in the UK.

The ongoing research and development work undertaken by the AFBI grass breeding programme ensures that a steady supply of new varieties are produced that can meet the requirements of the grassland and livestock industries in the UK. Initial grass-breeding research is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in N. Ireland, with near-market research funded by our long-standing commercial partner Barenbrug. Continued investment in the programme, strongly enhanced by our excellent connection with the commercial sector, will ensure a steady supply of new grasses, which can meet the ever changing demands of the agriculture industry.

Dr Gillian Young

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Cropvale Corner

Our main UK trial site is Cropvale Farm in Worcestershire, a 15 acres site for both amenity and agricultural, first established in 2008. It is one of 21 research and breeding stations throughout the world for the Royal Barenbrug Group. Cropvale farm is still a working farm belongs to the Hutchings family, with Roger Hutchings managing our trials.

Cropvale was first established to screen ryegrass breeding material coming from our UK breeding partner, the Agri-food & Biosciences Institute for Northern Ireland (AFBI), and from our Barenbrug breeding programmes in Holland, France and New Zealand. Cropvale still serves that function today and now we also screen a range of species species such as soft-leaved tall fescue & cocksfoot, timothy and various legumes.

Further to the variety work, we have steadily expanded and now include a range of mixture trials as well as demonstration plots that we can use with visitors really allowing them to get hands on with the crops. Another important part of our work are trials with commercial partners, we are an official disease testing site for the NIAB Recommended Grass and Clover List every year and have also been involved in a DEFRA project looking at potential biological pest control for grass.

Currently on the site there are two years of variety evaluation trials, numerous plots of traditional, novel, and biodiverse mixtures and a new species demonstration. The main sowing time at Cropvale is in the autumn but we will sow several annual, spring sown crops again as soon as conditions are appropriate.

Looking to the future, we are expanding our local trialling within the British Isles and now have two further sites established with Barenbrug UK trials, one in Co. Armagh in Northern Ireland and one in Co. Cork in the Republic of Ireland. In summer 2021, we will establish A Scottish trial site taking us to 4 regional locations all with very varied climatic conditions to give us a wide range of information on our varieties.

As well as official trial sites, our Grass Into Gold initiative, which has been running for 6 years now, will be expanded to give a broader range of on farm information working with farmers who truly value what grass can do to for their farm business regardless of their enterprise.

Rejuvenating swards: Which option is best?

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Written by Brian McDonnell

Maintaining grass quality during mid-season grazing is important. Farmers can maintain quality by entering ideal grazing covers of 1,300 – 1,500kg DM/ha, and grazing down to a residual of 4cm every rotation.

If you are now in a situation where cows are not cleaning out paddocks as well as they should be, leading to the development of steamy grass within the sward, here are some options.

Common options for rejuvenating swards include:

  1. Take a silage cut, probably into bales, remove the material and start again with the aftermath...