Syngenta UK
Farminguk
24 August 2016 | Online since 2003
Auto Trader Ltd


14 March 2014 05:35:35 |

Manage forward grass growth to maximise yields and quality


Grass growth is well ahead of normal after the fifth warmest winter since records began. With temperatures averaging 5.2°C between December and March; 1.5°C above the UK average, it’s hardly surprising that many farmers are concerned about managing their grass, particularly as soils remain saturated following the wettest winter on record.
It is no different at Stoneleigh, the site of the Grassland & Muck Event, where agronomists are monitoring conditions to ensure optimum silage grass for the machinery demonstrations on 21st and 22nd May. The grass is so far ahead that they have suggested it be mowed, and fertiliser applications split into two, to try and control the growth.
“The grass has not really stopped growing all winter,” says Nigel Hester, area manager at Yara. “One of my customers in Cornwall already had 3200kg/ha of dry matter at the end of February, before anything had been fertilised.”
While early grass growth presents a wonderful opportunity for farmers to turn livestock out early or take an early cut of silage, the practicalities are not quite so simple. “If you turn stock onto wet ground it will cause too much damage – and yet if you let the grass get away from you, it has long-term implications for the rest of the season,” says Mr Hester. “On-off grazing is one possibility, to maximise grass intakes in a limited number of hours per day.”
One option to check grass growth is to delay nitrogen fertiliser applications. “But the problem with that is that after such a wet winter soil nutrients will be at low levels, and having been growing all winter, the grass will need feeding,” he adds. “Optimising spring applied nutrients will ensure high yields of quality forage - efficient utilisation is the real challenge.”
Farmers should test their soil nutrient indices before creating a fertiliser schedule, says Mr Hester. “Don’t forget sulphur – only 8% of grassland is getting bagged sulphur; it will improve nitrogen utilisation and you will most likely get a yield and quality response. And be patient – wait for the right soil conditions before travelling, or you will end up creating compaction problems.”
The key to managing grass, whether grazed or ensiled, is to be flexible, says Dr Liz Genever, beef and sheep scientist at EBLEX. Farmers with good infrastructure could graze their driest fields to take off winter growth and then shut up the leys for silage, for example. “If taking an early cut of silage from a small number of fields, you could bale it rather than starting a clamp,” she says. “Also, adapt your nitrogen regime to make sure you aren’t stimulating more grass growth, which without good management, will affect quality later in the season.”
If grazing, farmers should choose sheep or their lightest cattle – weaned calves and yearlings – as they will do less damage than heavier stock. “And don’t turn everything out at once – try a small group to start with; don’t be too ambitious because grass can quickly disappear at this time of year.”
For optimum grass yields and quality at this time of year, grass heights should be kept below 6cm for sheep and 10cm for cattle, says Dr Genever. “Monitor your grass growth every week or fortnight using a sward stick or measurement on the side of your wellies. That way you can plan ahead to ensure supply is matching demand.”
Another problem caused by the wet winter has been the ability to get on land to spread slurry and manure. “There is the danger of grass contamination when applying slurry to high covers,” says Dr Genever. “If the grass is forward and you have to apply slurry, use a trailing shoe to minimise contamination.”
If possible, farmers could store slurry for later in the season, and apply bagged fertiliser in its place, she adds. “Don’t forget about phosphate and potash – after the warm winter, the grass will be in need of it.”
Where farmers delay applying nitrogen, or opt to take an early cut of silage, they must remember to leave one day of growth per 2.5kg/ha of nitrogen applied before cutting it. “If you’re applying 100kg/ha you need to leave it 40 days, otherwise you’ll get high nitrates in the grass which can affect fermentation and palatability of the silage,” says Dr Genever. “The key is to plan ahead now and be flexible - how you manage your grass now will affect yields and quality for the rest of the season.”

Download

0 Comment

loginuserlogo
Name

Please enter your name


Email

Please enter your email

Please enter valid email


Comment

Please enter your comment


Post Comment

Your comment has been submitted successfully. Please wait for admin approval.


Comments

No comments posted yet. Be the first to post a comment


Canada | 24 August 2016
Canadian farmers see bumper wheat crop as rain curbs quality

Canada’s wheat production will rise more than expected this year, adding to a global glut of the grain, while canola output will probably decrease, according to a government report. Wheat output wi...


France | 24 August 2016
Lactalis ready to discuss milk prices with angry French farmers

Europe's largest dairy producer, Lactalis, said on Tuesday it was ready to renegotiate milk prices paid to producers after hundreds of farmers protested outside its headquarters in northwestern France...


Japan | 24 August 2016
Is Japan's wagyu beef bubble bound to burst?

Bad news for high-end beef lovers: Japan’s Wagyu bubble could be on the verge of bursting. Prized Wagyu calves are currently fetching wildly inflated prices, says Nikkei Asian Review, and "If sky-high...


USA | 24 August 2016
Grassley to hold hearing on agriculture mergers next month

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said Tuesday he will hold a hearing next month to discuss a wave of consolidation among seed and chemical producers, including the merger of Dow and DuPont. The chairman of...


Kenya | 24 August 2016
Should agriculture be a required school subject?

Despite the grumbling of many frustrated American school kids taking math tests, the broad subjects required in public schools each have firm arguments for their respective inclusion. But that does...



Trending Now

Viewed
Discussed


Top stories you may have missed
FarmingUK
FarmingUK Logo

FarmingUK

The sustained recovery of pig prices since the spring has come at a time wh...


FarmingUK
FarmingUK Logo

FarmingUK

A World Trade Organisation (WTO) panel has declared the Russian import ban ...


FarmingUK
FarmingUK Logo

FarmingUK

A new study has linked oilseed rape crops grown from neonicotinoid-treated ...


FarmingUK
FarmingUK Logo

FarmingUK

Philip Hammond is to guarantee billions of pounds of UK government investme...


FarmingUK
FarmingUK Logo

FarmingUK

Access to the foreign labour market is 'critical', according the chief exec...


FarmingUK
FarmingUK Logo

FarmingUK

The Tenant Farmers Association has said the National Trust's vision for a p...


FarmingUK
FarmingUK Logo

FarmingUK

Ulster farmers will 'not lie down and wave the white flag' when Brexit nego...


FarmingUK
FarmingUK Logo

FarmingUK

The cost of rural crime to the UK economy costs £42.5 million a year, accor...


FarmingUK
FarmingUK Logo

FarmingUK

A young farmers club member from Oxfordshire has created a petition on the ...


FarmingUK
FarmingUK Logo

FarmingUK

The farming sector has reacted negatively to a proposal to reintroduce the ...


closeicon
Username
Password