Choosing the right grass seed mixture to meet the needs of forage production, grazing and as an anaerobic digester feedstock can be a challenge, but Technisward mixtures supplied by Agrovista are fitting the bill for John Mann.
John Mann farms 280 hectares (692 acres) near Wigton, Cumbria, and raises 1,000-head of cattle, comprising 360 dairy cows plus followers and a 250- head bull beef herd.
He also runs a 124kW anaerobic digester, for which the feedstock is grass, crimped grain and slurry. Digestate provides a valuable source of nutrients for the crops, which, in addition to grass, include 60ha (148 acres) of maize and 80ha (197 acres) of cereals.
The rotation entails two years of maize under plastic followed by one wheat and two barleys, and three to four years of grass.
Dry cows and dairy followers are grazed on 40ha (99 acres) of rough grass, before going onto the leys after third cut.
Mr Mann says: “We were introduced to Technisward by our Agrovista agronomist, who recommended Super Cut for its high production qualities.”
After the wet conditions prevented the routine reseed last autumn, Super Cut established well this spring.
“The seed was in stock from autumn, so we have drilled it and it is ready for next season,” he says, adding:
“it is not a time consuming process to establish – we put plenty of muck and slurry on before ploughing in, and then roll the seedbeds with a Cambridge roller with levelling board, power harrow the corners and drill. I have no complaints on germination, the reseeds come through really well.”
Digestate from the AD plant plays an important part in nutrition. Mr Mann explains: “The digestate is separated, so it is highly concentrated, the nutrients are readily available and we only need to add a small amount of extra N.
“We will make an application in spring and then put more digestate on after first cut.” Despite the long, cold spring, first cut silaging took place on schedule.
“We thought we would be a bit behind, but we picked up on May 23, the same as in 2017. The newer Technisward leys came through especially well,” he says. Mr Mann reports excellent recovery after cutting, but stresses attention to detail is important, such as using flotation tyres on
silage trailers to minimise damage to the sward.
The flexibility of the mixtures and the tailored approach offered by breeder DLF and its agent Agrovista is another bonus, he adds.
“We were able to replace one variety which was heading too soon and the support we receive from our Agrovista agronomist is excellent. The ability to choose a mixture that was geared towards high production rather than grazing is a significant advantage for us.”
Mr Mann estimates he is achieving yields of 60t/ha (24t/ acre), and analysis of this year’s first cut shows 27.2% DM, 14.9% protein, 70.3% D-value and 11MJ/kg ME. The forage ration is generally 50/50 grass and maize, but the quality of the grass silage is such he is able to tweak it to 60/40 in a year where maize is below par, such as last season.
“We have been approached by a few other suppliers since starting with Technisward five years ago, but it would be hard to better DLF’s proven production figures and the back-up we enjoy,” he says.
Formulated as a multi-cut intensive grass to produce optimum quality silage, Super Cut benefits from the inclusion of advanced species, explains breeder DLF’s Nick Duggan.
“The advanced festulolium grasses have been bred by crossing and backcrossing fescue and rye-grass. Fescue withstands stressful conditions such as drought and also has enhanced waterlogging tolerance due to a better root network than rye-grass.”
And rye-grass brings its own production benefits. He says: “Rye-grass adds consistentyield and forage quality with high ME and protein levels, plus good digestibility.”
Super Cut also offers practical and value benefits compared to other high production mixtures, including a lifespan of four to five years rather than the usual two to three years.
“It is a versatile mixture which will do well on most soils,” says Mr Duggan. “This includes some of the fine draining soils on grassland farms in Lancashire or on the Wirral for example, where high rye-grass mixes can burn off.”
He adds while Super Cut does well on a standard fertiliser plan, growers are encouraged to consider the upper limits of nitrogen recommendations.
“It responds very well to N, along with the correct levels of P&K, and excellent results can be obtained by pushing the mixture with fertiliser.”
Mr Duggan says paying attention to husbandry can reap benefits, especially where the leys are grazed as well as cut.
“Try not to overgraze and avoid mowing too low. These varieties are bred to have a lower growing point, but if it is exposed or damaged it can hinder regrowth. The sward needs to be able to regrow by photosynthesis rather than by using root reserves which can also shorten the lifespan of the ley.”