Farmers from around the country share their top tips on grassland management.
Steve Brandon, Hopton in Stafford, is involved with two spring block calving herds using an intensive grazing-based system. He says rotational paddock grazing is the most important factor for him.
“By using a rotational paddock system it ensures we get an early turnout and are feeding good quality grass at all times. It’s very rare we need to supplement the feed during the summer months and we can limit the use of concentrates.”
Mike Hawking is an intensive dairy farmer who produces about 9,500 litres/cow/annum from his 165-cow herd based in Beaworthy, Devon.
He says: “It’s about not abusing your grassland. By avoiding poaching and ruts, we find it prevents the weeds coming in. Once you get weeds in then you get lower production from the grass. Once it gets wet we bring our cows in and prevent damage to the grass.”
Reducing the time to wilt can improve silage quality according to Hugh Bevan, Pembrokeshire, who farms 120 dairy cows with followers as well as 100-head of beef cattle.
“We used to take anything from 36 to 48 hours to wilt our grass, but have now cut down to 24 hours. Our silage analysis has shown this results in less loss of nutrients and better energy content. We use an additive with the silage which we find improves the stability in the clamp and encourages greater intake by the cows.”
Roger Thomas is based at Carmathen and has 250 Holstein milking cows.
He says: “Spraying weeds as early as possible following grass re-seeding is one of the best pieces of advice I have received.
“Doing this allows us to get complete control at the early growth stages before the weed becomes competitive and impacts grass quality. It’s also cost-effective as we usually only have to spray once in the year.”
Merv Attwell, Coxley, Somerset, milks 250 Holstein Friesian cows.
He says: “Advice which I’ve highly valued is to treat re-seeding as an investment rather than a cost. Long-term, my leys remain productive producing high-quality silage and grazing, and the benefit this has on cow performance far outweighs the cost.”
Mike Ellicott, from Bridgwater, Somerset, has 150 Holstein Friesians.
He says: “Something which has helped improve utilisation of grass on our farm is to take the first cut earlier. Not only has this improved silage quality, it has allowed us to take five cuts, five weeks apart, with the first cut taken in April.”
Hefin Wilson, farms at Cardigan, South Wales, and has 80 Holsteins and 15 Jerseys.
He says: “The best bit of advice I’ve received is to make sure P and K levels are correct, as they’re the foundations for good root growth. We now do regular soil testing to check the levels which allow us to create a bespoke fertiliser plan and we have definitely seen a positive impact on the quality of our grass.”
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