Growing organic/low fert forage

crashbox

Member
Livestock Farmer
I'm a conventional dairy farmer... but like lots of us, have been looking at ways of growing enough forage with less/no synthetic fertiliser. Due to both economic and environmental considerations. For example herbal grazing leys and red clover silage leys.

So Gabe Brown reckons he can grow more grass/cereals/maize/etc. With no synthetic fert than his neighbours do with fert, essentially by no-till, cover cropping and mob grazing.

What are peoples' experiences of how much forage you can really grow organically?

For anyone who has made the switch, what was the yield drop (e.g. in grass growth) going from conventional to organic? What did you have to do differently, apart from no spray and fert?

TIA
 

More to life

Member
Location
Somerset
I'm a conventional dairy farmer... but like lots of us, have been looking at ways of growing enough forage with less/no synthetic fertiliser. Due to both economic and environmental considerations. For example herbal grazing leys and red clover silage leys.

So Gabe Brown reckons he can grow more grass/cereals/maize/etc. With no synthetic fert than his neighbours do with fert, essentially by no-till, cover cropping and mob grazing.

What are peoples' experiences of how much forage you can really grow organically?

For anyone who has made the switch, what was the yield drop (e.g. in grass growth) going from conventional to organic? What did you have to do differently, apart from no spray and fert?

TIA
That's a great question honest stocking rates post switching to organic would be the best comparison.
 

awkward

Member
Location
kerry ireland
First thing needed is a change of mindset,as what function do the weeds(diverse forage) present ,fulfill within each crop. Gabe has transitioned his soil and gained organic matter which provides nutrients at a greater rate than unconverted soil so its not as simple as just jumping on the bandwagon, but worth while .
 
organic 8.8 t/ha dry matter is the best paddock this year, however I have not taken grass covers for the last 6 weeks (chest infection, which would not go, followed by bad back meant I am only able to walk about now properly), and probably not worth bothering to follow growth now (Agrinet says Wales is having 6kg DM/Ha/day growth now! And as the top of the farm here is over 1000' I guess we are getting even less). How does that compare? The woman on the Agrinet help desk said on their farm in Ireland they were getting 14 t/Ha dry matter (but I have no idea how much fertliser they were using- or will next year!). I think the vet said they were getting between 11 and 12.
 

sidjon

Member
Location
EXMOOR
I'm a conventional dairy farmer... but like lots of us, have been looking at ways of growing enough forage with less/no synthetic fertiliser. Due to both economic and environmental considerations. For example herbal grazing leys and red clover silage leys.

So Gabe Brown reckons he can grow more grass/cereals/maize/etc. With no synthetic fert than his neighbours do with fert, essentially by no-till, cover cropping and mob grazing.

What are peoples' experiences of how much forage you can really grow organically?

For anyone who has made the switch, what was the yield drop (e.g. in grass growth) going from conventional to organic? What did you have to do differently, apart from no spray and fert?

TIA
We do 13ton dm/ha without fertiliser, run 5 cows a ha, but don't make silage on the grazing platform and feed ton of hard food in the parlour
 

awkward

Member
Location
kerry ireland
organic 8.8 t/ha dry matter is the best paddock this year, however I have not taken grass covers for the last 6 weeks (chest infection, which would not go, followed by bad back meant I am only able to walk about now properly), and probably not worth bothering to follow growth now (Agrinet says Wales is having 6kg DM/Ha/day growth now! And as the top of the farm here is over 1000' I guess we are getting even less). How does that compare? The woman on the Agrinet help desk said on their farm in Ireland they were getting 14 t/Ha dry matter (but I have no idea how much fertliser they were using- or will next year!). I think the vet said they were getting between 11 and 12.
I'm not sure , grass measurement is not something I've been involved with until lately, the group has one member supplying growth figures to agrinet ,it is part of a pilot measuring all aspects of weather,fertility,output and residuals.
 
I'm not sure , grass measurement is not something I've been involved with until lately, the group has one member supplying growth figures to agrinet ,it is part of a pilot measuring all aspects of weather,fertility,output and residuals.
on agrinet it says the South West 23 kg DM/Ha/day, where as Scotland is only showing 1! I am guessing in Ireland, with the Gulf Stream, you have more growth.
 

frederick

Member
Location
south west
We do 13ton dm/ha without fertiliser, run 5 cows a ha, but don't make silage on the grazing platform and feed ton of hard food in the parlour
But a lot of your 13 is achieved by using the nitrogen from your 5 cows ha. It would be interesting what your total ha production.

I have heard of organic farms using digestate at which point their applied N can be the same as conventional.
 

sidjon

Member
Location
EXMOOR
But a lot of your 13 is achieved by using the nitrogen from your 5 cows ha. It would be interesting what your total ha production.

I have heard of organic farms using digestate at which point their applied N can be the same as conventional.
Next-doors is similar soil, but steeper ground, also no fertiliser or Lime and stuggles to keep 2 ewes/ha, so would guess 6ton/ha at best
 

Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
@Kiwi Pete ,would probably explain the concept of livestock impact and nutrient cycling to keep a high stocking rate in low input systems better than most ,
@holwellcourtfarm
Thanks, it's reasonably simple in practice - focus on harvest efficiency to increase plant recovery time, but also ensuring every plant in the field is either grazed or crushed down

nutrient cycling really relies on fresh yellow litter being trampled into contact with the soil surface, ie you really want to be grazing plants with a senescent leaf - 3 leaves for the cow, 1 leaf for the soil

some try leaving taller residuals and grazing faster is the result, eventually it seems to catch up ie better species become less and unpalatable species increase
 

Dead Rabbits

Member
Location
'Merica
I'm a conventional dairy farmer... but like lots of us, have been looking at ways of growing enough forage with less/no synthetic fertiliser. Due to both economic and environmental considerations. For example herbal grazing leys and red clover silage leys.

So Gabe Brown reckons he can grow more grass/cereals/maize/etc. With no synthetic fert than his neighbours do with fert, essentially by no-till, cover cropping and mob grazing.

What are peoples' experiences of how much forage you can really grow organically?

For anyone who has made the switch, what was the yield drop (e.g. in grass growth) going from conventional to organic? What did you have to do differently, apart from no spray and fert?

TIA
How much are you growing and utilizing now, like this past year? How much will fertilizer price increases increase your cost per tonDM? Id bet there is something to be gained from just grazing management improvements alone.

If you are looking to decrease your cost per ton DM I’m not so certain looking to organics would be a very good idea. Organic is based on limiting tools that you can use on your farm based on arbitrary, perceived good or bad qualities they have. But many that are organic are very good at maximizing what they can produce under organic rules. But organic doesn’t really have anything to do with understanding your soil life, soil structure, carbon cycle, water cycle etc.

In your climate I’d be skeptical that anything will touch N fed ryegrass+Some clover for dairy quality yields, on dairy ground anyway, look at alternatives very closely.

I’m a big fan of gabe brown and his tribe and the 5 principles of regenerative agriculture. The principles are sound, focus on those and not necessarily specific practices.
 

Scholsey

Member
Location
Herefordshire
I'm a conventional dairy farmer... but like lots of us, have been looking at ways of growing enough forage with less/no synthetic fertiliser. Due to both economic and environmental considerations. For example herbal grazing leys and red clover silage leys.

So Gabe Brown reckons he can grow more grass/cereals/maize/etc. With no synthetic fert than his neighbours do with fert, essentially by no-till, cover cropping and mob grazing.

What are peoples' experiences of how much forage you can really grow organically?

For anyone who has made the switch, what was the yield drop (e.g. in grass growth) going from conventional to organic? What did you have to do differently, apart from no spray and fert?

TIA

Being new to the organic job I am yet to workout how to maintain productive/palatable leys without ploughing/breakcrop and a fresh ley, I personally have no issue with ploughing once every 5 years and our soils are far better for no longer growing maize.
 

Nsoiled

Member
BASE UK Member
How much are you growing and utilizing now, like this past year? How much will fertilizer price increases increase your cost per tonDM? Id bet there is something to be gained from just grazing management improvements alone.

If you are looking to decrease your cost per ton DM I’m not so certain looking to organics would be a very good idea. Organic is based on limiting tools that you can use on your farm based on arbitrary, perceived good or bad qualities they have. But many that are organic are very good at maximizing what they can produce under organic rules. But organic doesn’t really have anything to do with understanding your soil life, soil structure, carbon cycle, water cycle etc.

In your climate I’d be skeptical that anything will touch N fed ryegrass+Some clover for dairy quality yields, on dairy ground anyway, look at alternatives very closely.

I’m a big fan of gabe brown and his tribe and the 5 principles of regenerative agriculture. The principles are sound, focus on those and not necessarily specific practices.
There's good data on productivity in clover leys and herbal leys showing equal production with N fed PRG.
Know if at least one commercial dairy operation who's gone without bagged N on his grazing ground and only one application onto silage in the year. 1/3 of the farm being down to multi-species swards now
 

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Just an over the hedge view.
First 2 years there appears to be a big drop in production. One chap told me he needed 2x the acreage for same production in that period
Seems to take about 4 years to get going
Organic production seems to be far better in high rainfall areas. & hard going in under 30" / year rainfall

Quite happy to be proved wrong
 

Bruce Almighty

Member
Mixed Farmer
Location
Warwickshire
Just an over the hedge view.
First 2 years there appears to be a big drop in production. One chap told me he needed 2x the acreage for same production in that period
Seems to take about 4 years to get going
Organic production seems to be far better in high rainfall areas. & hard going in under 30" / year rainfall

Quite happy to be proved wrong
I'd have thought Lucerne would be the ideal crop in a dry area ?
 

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Five nature-recovery projects spanning 100,000ha launched

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Written by Michelle Martin from Agriland

Image-source-Savills-field-640x360.jpg
Five nature-recovery projects spanning nearly 100,000ha across the West Midlands, Cambridgeshire, the Peak District, Norfolk and Somerset have been announced by the government and Natural England today (Thursday, May 26).

This is the equivalent in size to all 219 current National Reserves.

The aim of the projects is to deliver nature recovery at a landscape scale, helping to tackle biodiversity loss, climate change and improve public health and well-being.

All five projects will make a significant contribution towards the national delivery of the international commitment to protect at least 30% of land and...
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