Soil health is a vital component when ensuring optimum productivity in livestock, say experts.
Speaking at a series of workshops help across the summer, independent soil expert Ian Robertson of Sustainable Soil Management explained that farmers, especially those in the beef sector, should be looking at soils rather than supplementation when ensuring that cattle are receiving balanced nutrient intakes.
Mr Robertson said: “Nine out of ten issues seen on foliage are caused by activity within the soil, which can be influenced by human interaction and abiotic factors. The most valuable thing you can do is take the time to dig holes and look at your soils across multiple point’s on-farm.”
Meetings have been held across the country to advise farmers on efficient nutrient management in cattle and other livestock.
“Soil pH is an important factor to keep an eye on”, continued Mr Robertson. “This is an indication of the acidity or alkalinity of soils, but most importantly the pH will impact the solubility of minerals and nutrients.”
He explained that the ideal pH range for grass is between 6 and 6.8 on the pH scale.
A number of minerals are considered vital for plant growth, such as nitrogen, potash, calcium and phosphorus
Mr Robertson also highlighted how cattle can cause compaction of up to 7cm, impacting root growth and plant development.
“Aerating the soil is one solution to consider”, he said, “as this will help improve air flow, water infiltration and nutrient absorption within soils.
Air can also act as a vacuum to pull in nitrogen from the atmosphere, extending cells and filling them with water. Be warned that too much water could impact the quality of the grass negatively by diluting the concentration of vital nutrients available within the plant”.
By making sure soils are in in excellent health, farmers can be assured that this will be reflected in cattle health and performance.