One way for livestock farmers to start treating grass in a more business-like way is to use more productive grass seed mixtures, suggests Limagrain.
In the past six years, Limagrain’s plant breeding programme has identified and selected characteristics in grass varieties which offer a combination of agronomic and nutritional advantages.
The company says trials using specially designed mixtures of these varieties have shown significant improvements in grass yield, nutritional quality, animal performance and milk production.
Limagrain has accredited these advanced grass varieties and mixtures with the LG Animal Nutrition accreditation (LGAN) as ‘proof’ they have met both agronomic and feed value benchmarks and, through extensive trials, have been proven for their efficient production and contribution to animal performance.
The ability to improve digestible fibre (dNDF) has been a key factor in selecting LGAN varieties and mixtures. Fibre is needed in the diet to maintain a healthy rumen, so increasing dNDF in the diet improves feed efficiency.
This can increase production of milk and meat. Better digestibility will help stimulate intakes.
More palatable tetraploid varieties that cows will graze in preference to diploid grasses have also been selected for LGAN mixtures.
The skill of the plant breeder extends beyond identifying the advanced varieties, to combining them in the grass seed mixture and getting the right balance between fibre, protein and sugar content.
Independent trials in the UK and further afield have produced encouraging results when the LGAN-accredited mixtures have been put to the test in dairy situations.
Animal feeding trials at the Schothorst Institute in the Netherlands, demonstrate the link between improved grass nutrition and higher milk yields, comparing a conventional dual-purpose grass mixture with a LGAN grass seed mixture.
The LGAN mixture had a 3% higher ME and D Value, at 12.8MJ and 79.7%, respectively, and dNDF was 8% higher. Feed efficiency improved by 5% where the LGAN mixture was used.
Based on 300 days in-milk, this gave an extra 420 litres of milk, at 30p per litre, equating to £126/cow.
Results from trials at NIAB/TAG, Dartington, Devon, showed a 10% improvement in energy from an LGAN intensive grazing mixture compared with a low value control mix.
Table 2 illustrates the potential feed value of the LGAN grazing mixture, grown in trials at Limagrain’s Brant Broughton test site, Lincolnshire.
Results are taken from trials across three consecutive years, from 2014 to 2016, and include data from cuts taken about every four weeks throughout the season, rather than just from one or two cuts in a season.
The LGAN intensive grazing mixture showed increased levels of all of the main feed quality criteria compared with the control grazing mixture, which was put together using recommended varieties.
Independent research has shown the improvement in dNDF of 0.8% can result in an increase in milk yield of 0.2kg/cow/day, which is 20kg of milk/day for a 100-cow herd.
Further trials at NIAB/TAG’s Dartington site have shown the LGAN grazing mixture’s ability to maintain energy levels throughout the growing season.
The total energy production of the LGAN mixture was 25,695MJ/hectare, which was 19% higher than the control mix. This extra energy can support 4,848 litres of milk production, which, based on a milk price of 30ppl, is worth £1,454.40/ha.
LGAN grass mixtures are available to UK producers through Limagrain’s Sinclair McGill and Monarch ranges. The latest technical and product handbooks for these two ranges have bene published in March 2019 and are online or in print versions from Emily Short, Limagrain, on 01472 370 117, or firstname.lastname@example.org