After its inaugural event in Breconshire in 2012 and Radnorshire two years ago, the 2016 event at Rhug Estate aims to help all farmers make the most of forage crops.
Given the ups and downs of today’s farmgate returns, grass is a significant asset. But growing it is one thing, maximising its potential as a stock feed is critical.
This is one of the reasons why Meirionydd, as this year’s Royal Welsh featured county, decided to take up the challenge of organising what will be the third Royal Welsh Grassland Event.
Following on from the inaugural event in Breconshire in 2012 and Radnorshire two years ago, the 2016 staging again provides a platform for machinery manufacturers to put their latest equipment to the test.
Supported by Farmers Guardian
Alwyn Rees, the event chairman and a beef cattle and sheep hill farmer from Pennal, says: “To say the least, we accepted we were facing a daunting task when, as an organising committee, we set out an action plan.
“Assistance in staging the event has largely been made possible by the support of our main sponsors Germinal Seeds, IBERS/Aberystwyth University, HSBC, Hybu Cig Cymru, Innovis, Wynnstay and Farmers Guardian.
“But most importantly, none of it would have been achievable without the valuable input of Lord Newborough and his hardworking Rhug team.
“Within what is basically a county of family farms, venues which can provide both indoor and outdoor facilities for such an event at this time of year are few and far between.
“Invaluable, too, has been the assistance of Rhug farm manager Gareth Jones, our hardworking administrator Alun Jones and Dolgellau-based auctioneer Richard Jones, this year’s Royal Welsh president.
“Together with a demonstration area featuring large-scale plots of forage options, everything is set for a first class event.
“I for one am looking for take-away information which can be of benefit to my own farming system and it would be pleasing to know every farmer attending the event goes home with a message which could help cut their costs.
“With never-ending input cost rises and the uncertainty of market prices growing grass efficiently, harvesting and feeding it efficiently is vital.”
The Royal Welsh Grassland Event will be officially opened at 10am by Lord Newborough, owner of the Rhug Estate, which lies in the Dee Valley, near Corwen.
About 40 hectares (100 acres) have been made available, with a tractor and trailer shuttle service taking in the full-scale working machinery demonstration areas and grass seed variety trial plots throughout the day.
There will also be up to 100 industry trade stands providing a wealth of information.
The winners of 10 pairs of tickets for the Farmers Guardian Royal Welsh Grassland show ticket giveaway are:
Brian Mackintosh, Nannerch Mild, Flintshire; Debbie Baldwin, Bamfurlong, Lancs.; Aneurin Davies, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire; James Hague, Middlewich, Cheshire; Arwel Howells, Pemcader, Carmarthenshire; Catherine Jones, Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire; Carwyn Jones, Pwllheli, Gwynedd; Dewi Jones, Denbigh, Conwy; Clare Norlander, Llanddaniel, Anglesey and Joy Shearer, Newtown, Powys.
A grass seed industry reference list which can help farmers achieve better yields, greater competitiveness and improve profitability is being launched at Welsh Grassland.
Hybu Cig Cymru, the Wales-based red meat development agency, will be distributing copies of theRecommended Grass and Clover List for England & Wales – generally regarded as the ‘league table’ of grass varieties – on its stand.
The list identifies the best grass and clover varieties for beef, sheep and dairy farmers in the UK.
The characteristics measured include annual yield, simulated grazing management yield, conservation management yield, aftermath digestibility, ground cover, winter hardiness and disease resistance.
Choosing the highest yielding varieties for silage mixtures, for instance, and taking into account current input costs can mean as much as £110 per hectare per year (44.5/acre/year) of additional financial benefit, compared with using some of the lower yielding varieties.
Running alongside the Royal Welsh Grassland Event in the coming weeks is a series of open days on farms across Wales.
They have been organised by the Federation of Welsh Grassland Societies, which celebrates its golden jubilee this year, with the focus on meat and milk production from grass and forage-based systems.
All of the milestone events are open to all, not just members of the 20 or so local societies which make up what is the UK’s oldest and largest specialist grassland federation.
Big bale winner
In conjunction with the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society the federation organises annual all-Wales competitions for clamp and big bale silage.
Winner of the All-Wales Big Bale competition is North Wales farmer Morris Parry, Orsedd Fawr, Pwllheli, Gwynedd.
A member of the South Caernarfon Grassland Society, he keeps 50 suckler cows and 450 ewes on 242 hectares (600 acres) of grassland 600ft above sea level.
The winning entry was from a single cut taken on June 7 and wilted for 24 hours before being baled with an additive.
The operation was carried out by contractors who made 161 bales of silage from 12ha (30 acres) of grassland. The analysis showed: 43.6 per cent DM, D Value 75.1 per cent, ME 12.0 MJ/kg, CP 9.4 per cent and pH4.3.
This year’s runner up is David Griffiths who farms at Rhosson Ganol, near St Davids, and is a member of the North Pembrokeshire Grassland Society.
He keeps 35 suckler cows on his 53ha (132 acres) farm which is 120ft above sea level and grassland covers 40 ha (99 acres), with two-thirds being grazed in rotation.
Three cuts of silage were taken – on May 15, July 1 and August 15 - and wilted for 48 hours before being baled with an additive.
The competition silage analysed out at: DM 36.9 per cent, D Value 70.9 per cent, ME 11.3 MJ/kg, CP 14.6 per cent and a pH of 4.5. In total, 450 tonnes of silage was made, taken from 32 ha (80 acres).
This year’s top clamp entry has come from Pembrokeshire farmer Richard Philips, of Orton, a member of Narberth Grassland Society.
He runs a 230-cow dairy herd with an average milk yield of 8,790 litres per cow, with butterfat at 4.23 per cent, protein at 3.33 per cent and rears 30 beef cattle each year on the 170 hectare (420 acres) south-facing unit, 250ft above sea level.
The winning silage was made predominantly from intermediate and late heading high sugar diploid ryegrasses and white clover mixtures. The analysis was: DM 30.6 per cent, D-value 74.8 per cent, ME 12.0 MJ/kg DM, and CP 14.2 per cent.
Some 69ha (170 acres) of grassland were taken for first cut on May 19, 61ha (150 acres) for the second take on June 30 and 40ha (100 acres) for third cut on August 11, giving a total yield of 2,900 tonnes fresh weight (5.1t DM/ha at 30 per cent DM).
The grass was wilted for 24-36 hours and an additive used. There were seven people involved in the silage-making process and the entire operation took three days.
There were two joint runners-up in the competition:
A.S.L. and C.E. Evans, Cwmwythig, Capel Bangor, members of the Aberystwyth Grassland Society. Their silage analysed out at: DM 32.8 per cent, D-value 73.8, ME 11.8 MJ/kg DM and CP 14.9 per cent.
The other runner-up was John Parry, Goitre Farm, Kerry, Newtown, from the Upper Severn Grassland Society and a previous All-Wales winner.
His silage analysis was DM 37.3 per cent, D-value 69.9, ME 11.2 MJ/kg DM, CP 11.5 per cent.
As well as the working machinery demonstrations Welsh Grassland will be focussing on opportunities to improve performance from forage and pointing the way towards more profitable livestock farming through better use of home grown resources.
In addition to showcasing the latest award-winning Aber High Sugar Grasses, there will be presentations on new options for alternative forages and an overview of different reseeding methods.
Greater production from forage is achievable on most livestock farms across the UK, with scope to increase both quantity and quality of forage being produced and the savings in bought-in feed costs can be substantial.
Reseeding demonstrations will highlight different approaches and underline the cost efficacy of renewing worn out swards.
Grassland is currently reseeded at an average rate of just 2-3 per cent per year across the UK – well below the level required to maintain swards in their most productive state and means there will be lost opportunities in terms of quality feed production.
But by reseeding more regularly, dry matter and feed quality are increased and factors such as extended grazing or use of alternative forage crops can be used to advantage.
Large scale demonstration areas at Rhug have been sown with contrasting Germinal mixtures which have been selected to demonstrate some of the more recent successes from the Ibers Aberystwyth University forage breeding programmes.
There will be a dual-purpose mixture, including diploid and tetraploid perennial rye-grasses, as well as some hybrid rye-grass and large leaf white clover.
For those more interested in a specialist silage ley with high protein potential, there is a perennial and hybrid rye-grass mixture including AberClaret red clover, one of the new longer lasting varieties from Ibers.
The exhibition area will also feature other forage crop examples as well as a display of reseeding equipment, including machinery suitable for sward renovation, direct drilling and establishing into a ploughed and cultivated seedbed.