A focus on spring grazing and early turnout has helped this year’s Ulster Grassland Farmer of the Year build a successful and profitable grassland dairy enterprise.
Colin Boggs runs his 120 cow herd at Clover Hill Farm near Banbridge, Co. Down. The herd currently has a rolling average of 6,368 litres per cow at 4.32% butterfat and 3.50% protein.
With just 640kg concentrates fed per cow, average milk from forage is an impressive 5,146 litres. This outstanding performance, coupled with his drive to grow more grass and utilize it better, helped Colin achieve the prestigious title of 2014 Ulster Grassland Society Grassland Farmer of the Year.
“The secret,” says Colin, “is to get cows out early and keep on top of the grazing from day one. That way you maintain a quality, leafy sward that puts milk in the tank.” This year the cows were turned out on 14th March.
To drive intakes even further, Colin is a keen advocate of pre-mowing his grazing paddocks. Pre-mowing begins at the start of the second grazing cycle and continues well into the autumn. “It’s a good way of keeping paddocks clean and in good shape,” says Colin.
Colin admits that because of his pre-mowing policy, reseeding hasn’t been a top priority in recent years. However his experience of 2014 has prompted a re-think. “I reseeded 20 acres last June with McLarnon’s Maxi-Sward Mixture and have been impressed with its spring growth. When I turned the cows out last weekend, the reseeded paddocks had the best cover by far. I’ve plenty of silage left over this year so my plan is to cut less silage and do a lot more reseeding.”
According to Dr Ronald Annett, Ruminant Technical Manager at McLarnon Feeds, reseeding is a job that has been neglected on many farms. “Research at Teagasc Moorepark shows investment in reseeding will be recouped within two years. This is due to the increased grass production and better fertilizer response from new and improved ryegrass varieties. With margins from meat and milk at their lowest for some time, growing more grass and utilizing it better are key to drive efficiency and cut costs.
“Don’t just look at predicted yield,” advises Ronald.
“Look for mixtures with excellent spring and summer grazing performance, or a high first cut silage yield, to give the best returns. Grass quality and persistency should also be considered. However if you run an autumn calving system, mixtures that produce a lot of low feed value autumn grass will be of little value.”
For farmers like Colin Boggs, who target an early turnout, McLarnon’s have added a new grazing mixture to their grass seed range for 2015. Xtra-Graze has been developed to deliver unrivalled spring and summer grass production, without compromising on quality or persistency.
For more information on McLarnon’s Grass Seed Mixtures, please contact McLarnon Feeds at 028 7965 0321.