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New Germ’activ Primed Seed Available

New Germ'activ Primed Seed Now Available on LG Fodder Beet Varieties

LG are pleased to be able to offer some fodder beet seed primed with Germ’activ. You can see from the video below, seed which is primed establishes faster, giving the crop those vitally important extra days to grow away quickly from pests and diseases.

 

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Tarine fodder beet that sits deep in the ground and lifts easily. Whether grazed in-situ or lifted with sugar beet machinery, Tarine offers extra feed potential to livestock enterprises seeking to increase their forage production. Consisting of a Dry matter (DM) content of 20-21%. And a flexible harvest window, Tarine Fodder Beet by Limagrain offers significant benefits to Livestock Enterprises.

 

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Tadorne is a new fodder beet variety bred especially for the increased production of anaerobic digestion | Biogas. Tadorne is a white root variety providing a very high dry matter content up to 23%. A high DM content reduces clamp losses and enables the beet to be stored for a longer period of time.

 

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Robbos Fodder Beet is a best selling variety with high yields and clean roots. Recent trials demonstrate the highest dry matter yield, with a clean yellow root and a medium dry matter content. Robbos Fodder Beet is an ideal choice, both for dairy and beef production facilities. End Use: Dairy, Beef & Sheep Harvesting Machinery: Leaf lifter Utilization: Lift and Clamp & Graze in situ Harvest: October & November Key Features: Clean yellow root Ease of harvest Medium dry matter content Large leaf UK proven

 

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A Rhizomania tolerant new variety of fodder beet, bred specifically for maximum production. Brick has the potential to produce a very high dry matter yield with a high dry matter content of 22-23% returning the highest DM content in our trials. Brick is a true fodder beet, exhibiting a smooth-skinned finish thereby reducing dirt tare. The Brick variety promises to be a top producer returning extra yield and feed potential. Features:

End-Use: Dairy, Beef & Anaerobic Digestion Harvesting Machinery: Sugar beet harvester Utilisation: Lift and Clamp Harvest: October, November & December

 

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Blizzard Fodder Beet | Anaerobic Digestion Potential Blizzard’s characteristics make it ideal for harvesting with sugar beet machinery and its high dry matter content allows growers extra harvesting flexibility.

A consistent performer over the years It will produce a very palatable feed, best fed to dairy or beef animals because of the high dry matter content.

Features: High DM yields High DM% Flexible harvesting dates Less clamp losses Anaerobic digestion potential

 

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Grass reseeding;


Overseeding
Choosing whether to go for a full reseed or to overseed can feel like another difficult decision - so feel free to use our field indexing system as a guide.

Generally we suggest that:
Field Indexing 2 – 4 = overseeding
Field Indexing 1 = reseeding


Don’t be afraid of overseeding - A short- to medium-term fix
Currently only around 2% of UK grassland is being oversown. Overseeding is a short- to medium-term option but it does provide a quick fix and is ultimately an effective method of improving productivity - while keeping investment costs to a minimum.

Overseeding is ideal for farmers who need to improve grassland performance to help boost profits but, understandably, feel nervous about investing in a full reseed or taking a field out of rotation.

While brand new swards will always outperform older grasses, overseeding can help to increase dry matter yields short-term – reducing farm reliance on expensive bought-ins and even improving live weight gains. Implemented carefully, overseeding has the potential to improve pasture productivity by between 30 to 40% for between three to four years, depending on field quality.

When overseeding, it is crucial to use a mixture designed specifically for this purpose. Any existing productive grasses in the ley already have an established root system and an established leaf canopy to capture light for photosynthesis. Any new grass seed that is introduced needs to be able to work with these conditions and overseeding mixtures are blended accordingly. Typically, they contain tetraploid perennial ryegrass varieties whose seeds are larger, have more aggressive growth habits and are faster to establish within an existing sward. As well as tetraploid-based varieties, introducing clover could be another option.

Clover can fill in gaps to reduce weed ingress. It can also improve nitrogen levels – encouraging tillering, which makes swards denser. Crucially, clover can also encourage higher voluntary intakes, improving live weight gains.







Reseeding
For fields beyond repair and needing rejuventation.

Reseeding grassland can feel like a major investment, especially if you’ve got a big farm, but you shouldn’t underestimate its importance. Did you know that in order to just ‘stand still’ in terms of grass quality, you should, ideally, reseed a minimum of 10% of your grass every year! While a 15% reseeding rate will start to deliver real gains - and make a difference to your bottom line. Conversely, fields that are not reseeded will quickly become overrun with weed species with little or no nutritional value.





Seeding Steps

1Dig a soil assessment pit to look for compaction and plant rooting structure, which should go 30cm deep in a perennial ryegrass/ Timothy sward.

Address compaction with aerators or sub-soilers as needed.
2Soil testing (4” deep) would also be advantageous as high levels of water can leach nutrients and reduce pH significantly.

Assess what plants are there – learn to identify what species you want to have e.g. perennial ryegrass/Timothy. Check for weed grasses,
they are usually shallow rooted and pull out very easily.

If they make up more than 30% of the sward, harrow hard to remove them.

With a sward of more than 70% weed grasses the best option is to reseed the sward.
3Minimise competition to new seedlings by grazing tightly with sheep or taking a silage cut. DO NOT fertilise before overseeding.
4Control perennial weeds before seeding by spraying with a selective herbicide.
5Use a spring tine harrow to remove any dead stalks, thatch and shallow rooted weed grasses. Make sure that the tines are working the top 1cm of the soil as this will create the seed bed for the new seeds.
6Choose a grass seed mixture designed for the job.

Sow when the soil conditions are neither excessively dry nor wet and use a specialist mixture designed to establish rapidly.
7Roll the sward to ensure good seed contact with the soil to conserve moisture.
8Graze lightly when the seedlings are 10cm high and continue at frequent intervals until the plants are well established.








The first 12 months are critical
Sowing is not the end of grassland establishment. Newly sown leys should be considered as ‘establishing’ for the first 12 months. Many new leys achieve high DM yields in the first year, even though their rooting structures are often poor - but management during the first year is critical to achieve longer-term persistency of growth and performance.

The better the underground rooting system, the better the plants are able to withstand future adversity.

Generally, but not always, the more cover there is, the better established the grass sward.

Cherish new swards like growing young stock – they are the production house of the future.
  • Treat your grassland like an arable crop
  • Fertiliser - New grassland responds well to light applications of N fertiliser
  • Watch out for sulphur deficiency
  • Early weed control is key
  • Measure, monitor and test (Use the sward stick and soil sampling)
  • Plan ahead and field index.






Grass - When to graze
Knowing when to graze grass and for how long requires careful judgement and it is wise to conduct regular visual checks of the number of tillers present to avoid problems.

GRAZING TOO EARLY
On a new ley, grazing grass too early – before a second new tiller leaf appears – can damage grass persistency. If a plant’s reserves have not been fully restored, future growth will be in jeopardy. Repetitive early grazing can permanently decrease grassland yield and persistence. Grazing grasslands at the right time is especially important through dry summer periods when plants are under stress; grazing the first new growth after a period of drought and before a tiller has two and a half new leaves in place can kill grass.

GRAZING TOO LATE
If grassland is left to grow too long (>3500 kg DM / ha) it will enter the ceiling phase of grassland growth. In this phase, tillers continue to produce new leaves, however, there is no further increase in net grassland mass due to the dying off of older leaves. If grassland isn’t grazed, dead material, which has little feed value, will build up in the base of sward.
This can lead to:
  • Reduced grassland ME
  • Increased risk of disease – rust and other forms of fungi can build up on dying leaves
  • Decreased grassland utilisation – due to the factors above
  • Reduced clover content – due to shading.



TRY THE PLUCK TEST.
Grasp the ryegrass seedling firmly between your thumb and forefinger, then tug
in a single, quick movement (to mimic an animal biting). If the leaves break off and the roots stay in the ground, the pluck test is passed.

In the photos above:
Left: Roots being pulled from ground
Right: Leaves breaking = a good time to start the first grazing.




First Grazing
The role of first grazing is to stimulate tillering and allow light to the base of the sward, enabling clover to flourish.

Remember:

  • Don’t graze too soon
  • Understand how the ‘Pluck Test’ can help timing
  • First grazing is not about feeding animals
  • It’s about removing the tips of the plant to encourage new growth
  • It’s also about ensuring clover has access to light and an opportunity to establish
  • This will likely be at the 6-8 week stage under good conditions
  • Light grazing should occur when a grass passes the “pluck test”
  • This will accelerate the growth rate and tillering process
  • Try to use the lightest stock class available
  • Leave a 4-5cm stubble to allow the plants to recover quicker
  • In spring, don’t let the grassland cover build up too much
  • This significantly reduces quality and discourages tillering
  • In autumn the plant is directing photosynthates to the root system
  • The more green material it has after grazing, the quicker the plant can recover
  • This will help the plant to put reserves into the root system aiding the overall persistence
  • A consistent 4-5cm residual will encourage growth and tillering
  • It will also help shading and suppression of white clover.



First Cutting
  • When cutting leys, leave 8-12cm stubble
  • This will allow speedy regrowth from live leaves
  • Try and avoid making heaving cuts of silage within the first 12 months
  • This damages plants, reduces tillering and growth.



Weed Control
A weed is “a plant in the wrong place”, but weeds can have significant consequences for grass leys. For example, where a field contains a 20% dock infestation, this can equate to a loss in 20% of potential grass production. This is due to the persistence of weeds competing for light, nutrients and moisture. Many weeds will thrive in newly sown leys with less competition. Weeds also love land with poorer soil conditions.

Tackling weeds is essential as they can:

  • Lead to grazing rejection of surrounding plant material meaning grass is then wasted
  • Reduce the overall palatability of the sward
  • Decrease the overall digestibility and energy of the sward
  • Be injurious when ingested e.g. thistles and nettles
  • Be poisonous e.g. Ragwort (poisonous to ALL grazing animals) and buttercup
  • Produce tens of thousands of seeds per year some of which can be viable for 80 years!
  • Host diseases and pests, which affect other crops as well as grass
  • Look unsightly – the worst field is always next to the road!
  • Trials have shown that up to 15% of grazing losses can be associated with as little as two creeping thistles/m².



Fertiliser
The UK’s grassland is always deficient in nitrogen (N), which assists with the tillering of ryegrass plants as well as overall grass health. In a new sward, a clover component will not contribute N immediately - so it is important to add fertiliser. New grass responds well to regular, light applications of N.




Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Grassland Management
  1. Control the area grazed each day (or rotation length) to manipulate grass eaten to meet average cover targets for the farm
  2. Estimate the area and pre-grazing cover required for the animals based on the target grazing residual and adjust after observing when / if the cows achieve a “consistent, even, grazing height”
  3. Make management decisions to maximise per animal production for the season not at any one grazing, the “main course principle - no dessert”
  4. Treat grassland as a crop - remove grass grown since last grazing and prevent post-grazing height increasing over the season
  5. Use a Sward Stick to monitor height. Maintain cover above 1800kg DM/ha in early spring and between 2000-2400kg DM/ha for the season to maximise grass growth rates
  6. Manage weed control
  7. Plan fertiliser programme.



Sward Stick
Knowing when to graze grass and for how long requires careful judgement. To help farmers gauge when to graze grass, we’ve developed a brand new sward stick, which is available completely free of charge. Printed with the optimum heights for grass for both sheep and beef, our sward stick is designed to help growers decide when to turn livestock out, and when to adjust grazing pressure.

We recommend using sward sticks on a weekly basis – to build up a log of grass growing information. Farmers should walk each relevant field, once a week, to monitor sward height. Following a similar route each time, they should take 30 to 40 leaf-top readings per field – before calculating an average and recording it in a notebook. This information can then be used to aid decision-making and for longer-term seasonal and year-on-year assessments and adjustments. We’ve created sward sticks in the past and they’ve proved really popular so make sure you get hold of yours quickly.
 

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Seed supplies are beginning to be affected by the COVID-19 virus.

Haulier have been notifying us that large numbers of both delivery drivers and office staff are now in self-isolation having shown symptoms of the virus.

Seed will be delivered but in some cases, it could take a few days longer than usual.
 

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Early Germinating Fodder Beet Gives Crop a Head Start
Primed seed, that promotes early germination in fodder beet, is available from Limagrain UK this season for three of its top varieties.

Limited quantities of Robbos, Brick and Tarine fodder beet seed have been primed using the Germ’activ system that encourages faster germination thereby reducing the opportunity for pest and disease damage in the early establishment stages when the seedlings are at their most vulnerable. In laboratory conditions, germination can be reduced by three to four days.



Robbos Fodder Beet




“Germ’active primed seed has been used very successfully in sugar beet seed for a number of years,” says Limagrain’s forage crop director Martin Titley. “This year, we have applied the technology to fodder beet seed.”


Germ’activ seed has been shown to promote establishment and has helped to create a uniform crop. “This will benefit both grazed and harvested crops of fodder beet for livestock producers looking for a high feed value winter feed.”



Cow Feeding on Fodder Beet

The latest UK fodder beet trial data published in January 2019 by Limagrain UK can be found at https://www.lgseeds.co.uk/crops/forage-crops/fodder-beet/
 

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High biomass clover offers new land recovery option


A new high biomass annual clover, included in spring-sown catch crop mixtures alongside short term ryegrasses, could offer dual benefits for farmers struggling with ground that has been waterlogged and left uncropped over winter.

The fast-growing FIXatioN clover – launched exclusively by us in the UK this season - can provide a boost to forage production as well as valuable soil conditioning, all within a short growing window.


FIXatioN balansa clover in a trial plot in Yorkshire

“From results we’ve seen around the world, we can see great potential for FIXatioN, and in field trials in Wales we certainly saw significant biomass production from just 12 weeks growth,” says Ben Wixey.


“Most notable was the fact that we saw root nodules within a few weeks, showing the capability for this fast growing leguminous plant to fix nitrogen in a relatively short period of time and therefore improve soil fertility.

“Grown in combination with rapidly establishing ryegrasses such as Italian ryegrass and Westerwolds, we see FIXatioN having great potential as a solution to currently uncropped land.



Including a fast growing high biomass species such as FIXatioN balansa clover in short term mixtures this spring will boost forage production and help to improve soils.
“Drilled in late April or May, as a short term soil conditioner, a mixture including Fixation would produce a valuable forage crop within about three months. This would then offer the option of overseeding something like a hybrid brassica or stubble turnip or could be left to produce a second cut before drilling a crop like winter wheat in the autumn. In both cases, the rooting activity of the grass and legume mix will help improve soil structure and soil fertility, whilst the top growth will generate a silage crop for feeding or sale.”
 

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BarTech March 2020 - Protein Focus
Protein is an important part of the diet for all grazing animals
BarTech March 2020 - Protein Focus

Protein is an important part of the diet for all grazing animals and is made up of amino acids, both essential and non-essential. Ruminant animals have the capability to obtain all the essential amino acids through food breakdown, however this can depend on the diet provided and animals will give a production response to a change or supplementation of nutrients.

Fresh grass Crude Protein (CP) levels can range from 16% to 28% and is dependent on factors such as the species present, growth stage of the grass crop, soil health and fertility and the climatic conditions.

The CP requirement varies between, sex, breed, age and stage of growth or production. Better grassland husbandry can help to supply CP for production and growth. Young, growing stock and lactating females have the higher CP requirement.

There are two types of protein to look at when formulating rations: Rumen Degradable Protein (RDP) and Digestible Undegradable Protein (DUP). Forage protein is typically high in RDP - as much as 80% - and low in DUP. RDP is broken down in the rumen easily and converted to microbial protein which then feeds the protozoan and bacterial populations in the gut. DUP passes through the rumen and is broken down in the small intestine.

MANAGING GRASS TO MAXIMISE CP

Rotational grazing practises can be ideal in maximising both energy and protein levels in forages because there is a more favourable leaf to stem ratio in the sward. As a grass matures, the dry matter percentage rises, resulting in an increase of more fibrous cell wall material and a reduction in the cell content percentage which is where energy, protein and other nutritional components are found.

Below: Tiller leaf production




Above: Barenbrug’s Sward Stick is used to measure the height of grass

LEGUMES

It is well known that adding legumes to a sward can increase protein levels, palatability and grazing intakes, subsequently improving animal productivity. They also allow grassland farmers to make use of ‘fixed’ atmospheric N giving the potential to reduce artificial N fertiliser inputs.


The most popular legume in the UK is white clover which is a stoloniferous species with a prostrate, spreading growth habit and varied leaf sizes. Smaller leaf white clovers are most persistent under heavier grazing whilst larger leaf types are better for rotational grazing and silage production. Using a blend of leaf sizes ensures the sward can adapt to varied management. White clover is a perennial species and is safe for all classes of livestock.

A crop of increasing popularity is Ensign Red Clover, a short to medium term species better suited to silage production due to its upright growth habit and higher yield capability.

To maximise plant persistency, red clover must be managed carefully with appropriate site selection, increased cutting heights and avoidance of overgrazing to protect the growing point of the plants. Red clover should not be grazed by, or red clover silage fed to, breeding sheep 6 weeks before tupping until 6 weeks after tupping. A mixture such as Protein Sile provides up to four years of low input high output, high protein forage.

Artemis lucerne (or Alfalfa) is another legume which is best suited to cutting can yield up to 17.5 t DM/ha in the first year and persist up to 5 years where well managed. Its deep rooted growth habit makes it a good choice for drought prone areas and can fix up to 250kg N/ha.

Barvicos common vetch is a very flexible variety which can be established in spring or autumn either simply as a green manure or as part of a mixture with grasses and or cereals for a number of applications.

Another short term high protein forage option is Prota Plus which combines the benefits of annual clovers and Italian ryegrass for a 12 – 18 month high protein crop suitable for cutting or grazing any class of livestock.


Above: Protein levels tested at Barenbrug’s Cropvale site on 20th March 2020. All species had protein levels of over 21% with cocksfoot being the highest at 30%.

Technical points:
  • Typically conserved forage CP can range between 10 and 20%.
  • Young stock need 13-15% CP in the diet, lactating cows 15-17%, depending on yield and finishing cattle need 12-16% CP. In-lamb ewes require 16 – 18% CP and sheep require 8g/day for wool production.
  • Adding legumes to a sward can increase protein levels, palatability, intake and enhances the diversity of swards.
  • Typically, white clover will fix between 100 and 150 kgN/ha/annum.
  • Red clover grows from a single crown and can fix over 200kg N/ha/annum.

 

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Put reseeding at the top of your 2020 to-do-list

With the winter period coming to an end it’s a good time to assess the need for spring re-seeding in grassland pastures, whether it be repairing damaged areas or addressing a lack of productivity in older swards.

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The most productive leys are often young reseeds sown with the most recently bred varieties of grass and a simple check on the content of established swards should give insight into whether a reseed is necessary. This check can be carried out by simply pulling up a random selection of plants all over the field and working out the proportion of ryegrass to weed grass. Ryegrass has a distinctive red colouration at the stem base unlike invasive grasses such as creeping bent and meadow grass. Ideally, swards should contain at least 60% of the original sown species to ensure fields remain productive.

Other factors worth considering include areas of poaching which result in bare patches, seriously reducing the production value of a pasture. As well as this, if there are any notable changes in performance from previous years these should also be considered.

Some fields may warrant a full reseed, with extensive damage due to poaching best remedied by ploughing. For newer leys or areas with less significant damage, renovation through overseeding may be the most effective course of action.

Area Sales Manager for Germinal NI, David Little says “Reseeding a grass ley is one of the most cost-effective practices that can be carried out on farm”. By doing so it boosts the output of the cheapest source of feed available to farmers and is a long-term benefit, with modern long-term leys remaining productive for 7-10 years under the right management. As a conservative estimate, new leys will produce at least 1 extra tonne dry matter per acre in a year, when compared to a 10-year-old pasture. “With the clear benefits to feed value and subsequent yields, the costs of reseeding should be recovered in the first year with further gains in the years to follow”.

Whichever method of reseeding you decide to go for, be sure to use the best available grass varieties to further boost sward performance over the coming years.

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Cover cropping fallow to restructure soils
Growers who are unable to get spring cash crops sown in good time and in suitable conditions should consider planting a cover crop instead.

That’s the advice from RAGT’s forage and soil health crops manager Helen Wilson, who says the benefits of growing a cover crop to help badly damaged and sodden soils recover in time for next season should far outweigh the cost of growing it.

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“A suitable cover will help restructure soils by putting down masses of roots. This will also help by pumping out water through the leaves to aerate the soil. It will also add organic matter and encourage soil biology, including earthworms.


“This all leaves soil in much better condition than leaving it bare, reducing or eliminating the need for remedial cultivations in the summer and giving the following crop a much better start.”


It can be difficult to persuade growers to spend more money, especially if they have bags of seed sitting in the shed they have already paid for, she admits.


“It is very tempting to continue with the programme. However, smearing crops into already-damaged soils is throwing good money after bad. Spring crops have a short growing season so anything that holds the crop back should be avoided, including cold, wet seed-beds and compaction. You also risk damaging your soils further if you cultivate when they are wet.”


Waiting for better conditions might not work either, she adds. “Once we get into mid or late April, depending where you are in the country, I’d suggest spring crops are very unlikely to cover their costs. You might as well save your seed for next year when it will do some good.”


Planting the right cover crop will deliver substantial benefits even if it is only in the ground for a couple of months, although the longer it is left, the more good it will do, she says.
There is no set cut-off date for drilling a cover crop. “All suitable species will romp away once soils are warming up, so in most cases you can wait until soils are capable of carrying machinery without damage.”


May or June are ideal, although crops can be sown into July. “That should still give 10-12 weeks of growth and enough time to destroy the cover crop and prepare the ground for the following crop.”


Species choice

There three main groups of cover crop suitable for use at this time – deep rooters, fibrous rooters and fertility builders, says Helen. “I suggest keeping things simple – the right combination of two or three species will do a good job.”


Oilseed radish and mustard have strong roots that reach 1.5-2m deep, breaking through compaction and opening up soils, improving drainage and encouraging earthworms to burrow.

“If you grow oilseed rape use our oilseed radish, Terranova, which is resistant to clubroot,” says Helen.
Rye and black oats have more fibrous root systems that condition and draw moisture out of the mid and upper soil layers.


Phacelia is shallow rooted so provides the same benefits as above in the seeding zone. The roots will also follow radish and mustard roots down.

“The cheapest option would be a white mustard/rye mix, but avoid if growing oilseed rape. Rye also takes longer to grow then black oats, so might not be the best choice if time is limited.


“Black oats cost more but are very popular as they produce biomass really quickly and have more vigorous root systems. These, along with oilseed radish and phacelia, would be my mix of choice. You could use vetch as the third choice if you want to fix N ahead of the next crop, or berseem clover, which is a better rooter.”


Cover crop management

Cover crops should be drilled in to a shallow seed-bed, says Helen. “As long as there is moisture present you don’t need to do too much; a light covering is sufficient.


“Seeds of different sizes can separate in the drill, so don’t put too much in at once. I’d recommend 40kg/ha of N to kickstart establishment as residual N levels are likely to be low.

“If there is a serious weed burden at drilling it might be worth spraying off, but these crops are pretty vigorous so should be able to cope in most circumstances.”


Radish, mustard and phacelia will flower about six weeks after sowing. Topping will prevent seed set and help maintain active root growth, although it is not essential, says Helen. “Species such as oil radish and mustard will bounce back, but Phacelia might be checked.”


Sourcing seed

RAGT cover crops can be mixed to suit individual requirement, budgets and the time of year, says Helen. “They are available from local merchants across the country, so growers can have a chat with them or contact me contact me directly for advice (hwilson@ragt.fr).”


Cover cropping fallow – key points

· Restructures soil

· Pumps out water

· Boosts soil biology

· Increases organic matter

· Reduces or eliminates need for remedial cultivation

· Flexible sowing dates

· Easy to establish

· Improves following crop prospects
 

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Return on Investment with reseeding
The advantages of reseeding
Return on investment with reseeding

Farmers who don’t treat grassland as a crop are missing out on thousands of pounds worth of production if they rule out proper management and reseeding grass leys.

The agricultural grass team at Barenbrug has calculated that farmers that reseed grass leys can expect a ten-fold return on investment as a minimum - depending on the focus of their farm. Using control *RGCL figures, Barenbrug estimates that reseeding with perennial ryegrasses has the potential farmers to achieve grass yields of around 11.63t DM/ha on a two cut silage system. That’s enough grass to generate 133,320 MJ of energy or the equivalent of:

  • 25,150 litres of milk worth = £6966*2
  • 2050kg of lamb worth = £8286*2
  • 2400kg of beef worth = £8544*2

Including autumn grazing which has the potential to provide around 4t DM yield and 52,906MJ produced in addition to the 2 cuts take the total annual production to 15.6tDM/ha and 186,226MJ of energy.

As a sward ages, generally the proportion of sown species drops and weed ingression increases and in 2017, AHDB estimated the average yield of grass in the UK to be around 7t DM/ha. Calculating seed sales against the temporary and permanent grass area in the UK, the UK reseeding rate stands somewhere between 2 and 4% per year meaning we are more likely to drop in overall grass production than gain.

When you compare an older sward which is yielding around 7t DM/ha and achieving only 86,400 MJ, livestock farmers could be missing out on £2451 of milk, £2914 of lamb or £2954 of beef within the first 12 – 15 months of reseeding perennial species which will continue to perform after that initial period used to calculate.



With the average full reseed costing between £650 - £700*1 per hectare, we speak to many people who struggle to see past the initial expense but the potential production from increasing average productivity by even 20% more than covers the cost. Reseeding, when done properly and with attention to details WILL provide a huge return on investment for a number of years. Commenting, Mhairi Dawson, Research & Development Manager at Barenbrug UK, said: “Future proofing your forage by investing in a reseed is a great way to improve productivity and resilience, and counter the weather-related problems we’ve seen over the past eighteen to twenty four months. It can be difficult to comprehend the value of a reseed, until you see the impact it can have on production levels - particularly when growing conditions are unfavourable.”

Our biggest take home message is that we need all livestock farmer to also be grassland farmers. It’s so important to treat grass as a crop and get your feet into the field and assess what is going on rather than looking over the fence and seeing green. The Barenbrug Good Grass Guide is a simple grass condition scoring tool – a similar concept to livestock body condition scoring – to help growers make decisions to improve poor swards and maximise productivity from highly performing fields and also provides space for field records.

*RGCL = Recommended Grass and Clover List 2019-2020. Independent data.
*1Calculated using National Association Agricultural Contractors Prices (2019-2020)
*2 AHDB UK average prices for 2014-2018

Photos left to right: Ploughing old grass | Establishing grass | More established grass

 

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Choosing the right grass species
Dairy farmer James Yeatman is trying out DLF festuloliums on cold, wet, heavy clay in Dorset

Pulham, the name of the village where James Yeatman runs 320 dairy cows plus youngstock, means ‘Land of Ponds’, accurately reflecting the heavy Oxford clay soil. The ground is slow to warm up in spring and any rainfall lies on the surface. Turning the cows out depends on soil conditions and varies from year to year.
“It is very easy to poach our fields and we only graze when there is no risk of soil damage,” says James. “Last year in the long, cold wet spring, the whole farm was cut as silage first before the cows went out.”
James rents 98ha (240 acres) at Grange Farm from the Sherborne Castle Estate where the cows are kept. Eighty-one hectares of maize is grown elsewhere on the estate, which James buys to include in the cows’ winter ration.
Further land is rented for growing silage from Graham Crocker at neighbouring Manor Farm, home to Quill Productions, which manufactures products for the game bird industry.
The cows are robust, smaller-framed Holsteins, which produce 10,000 litres of milk a year from twice a day milking. The milk is sold to Muller. James is a Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group scholar and recently travelled to New Zealand, Australia, Brazil and America investigating the welfare of indoor and outdoor dairy systems.
A trio of festuloliums cope well with heavy clay soil
The herd at Pulham block calves in the autumn during a tight nine-weeks and heifers are born in a four and a half week period. Sexed semen has been used on the top performing cows for the past 20 years, with the rest bred to an Angus beef bull.
James works with nutritionist Charlie King preparing a TMR from 50% maize silage, 30% grass silage and 20% wholecrop silage. A homemade pre-mix of straights and 4kg of soda grain is mixed into a Total Mixed Ration, which is fed fresh once a day. The aim is to provide enough energy and nutrients for the cows to peak at maintenance + 38 litres of milk.
Introducing festuloliums
Grass reseeding in the past has been as and when fields have needed it, with late heading perennial ryegrass and white clover mixtures favoured. But last year, in an effort to combat the wet ground conditions, James tried a mixture of DLF festuloliums – which are crosses between meadow fescue or tall fescue and ryegrass. This creates a combination of high nutritional quality from the ryegrass with good winter hardiness, persistence and stress tolerance from the fescue parents.
The mixture contained 5kg of Lofa hybrid festulolium, which has an extended grazing season and delivers high forage yields along with stress and disease tolerance. It is very deep rooting.
Along with this was 3kg of Hipast tall fescue festulolium, which after flowering stays in a vegetative state giving excellent ground cover – which can stand up better to poaching.
Finally 4kg of Perseus hybrid festulolium, which can tolerate flood and drought conditions and 3kgs of a red clover blend – to fix nitrogen, improve soil structure and increase the protein content of the silage.
This mixture was sown on a 5ha (13 acre) field after winter wheat. Slurry was applied after harvest and the ground was power-harrowed. The seed was sown using an Einbock grass-harrow seeder.
“We were lucky that it rained at just the right time at the end of the drought and it all came up,” says James. “That is the only advantage of having clay soil, once it gets some moisture – it holds onto it.”
Eight weeks after sowing, there was unexpectedly enough crop to take a cut, producing 30 bales of silage, which were wrapped and came in handy for winter feeding.
Growth continued through the 2018/2019 winter and 87kg/ha of nitrogen fertiliser was applied in spring. The first proper silage cut was taken on 19 April, yielding 15t/ha fresh weight.
“We have been delighted with the way this crop has grown and took a second cut on 24 May.
“Silage quality is paramount – we want quality forage, not a high pile of rubbish. We want to offer our cows the very best we can for their health and welfare – as well as for milk yield.
“It is still early days for the festulolium mixture but at the moment it is doing everything Mark Simes from DLF said it would! It seems to handle the cold, wet clay well and the heading dates fit in with the other ryegrass silage crops on the farm, so the contractor does them all at the same time. I shall be looking for four cuts this year and possibly some late autumn grazing for the heifers.”
This article was first published in British Dairying, July 2019
 

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138: Special episode: Covid-19 impact on the Potato sector

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138: Special episode: Covid-19 impact on the Potato sector

Written by AHDB

In this special issue of the Potatoes Podcast we will discuss the impact of Coronavirus on the Potato Markets. A fresh update on how Covid-19 has resulted in an increased demand on the retail market, while the chipping market has suffered the hardest hit. The uncertainty of the current situation will force businesses to...
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