‘Converting’ grass to milk

Tim Montgomery and Bryan Young
Tim Montgomery and Bryan Young

Bryan Young sets the bar high, not only on the rugby pitch – Bryan played for Ireland and Ulster and now coaches – but also in the performance of his 160-cow Holstein Friesian herd.

Based on the family dairy unit near Ballymena, Co Antrim, Bryan has already doubled milk yields from forage and he’s confident that there’s more to come.

“The cows are run in one group and grazed during the day throughout summer and autumn then housed overnight, and during the winter months,” says Bryan.

He aims to keep input costs down, and cut bought in feed prices whilst maintaining performance.

Having invested in a TMR feeder, Bryan is now looking to his grass seed mixtures for increased productivity.

“The TMR has helped us improve the forage part of the diet by chopping the forage to the ideal length and by mixing it well. We feed for maintenance plus 15 litres through the mixer wagon then top up according to yield in the parlour.

“But we need to look at all parts of the chain to maximise productivity – which is why I started looking at grass seed mixtures more carefully.”

Discussions with his merchant Tim Montgomery led Bryan to try Sinclair McGill’s Scotsward to reseed a silage field last spring. This mainly cutting mixture is well-known for producing high ME silage.

“I’ve previously bought the standard mixtures ‘off the shelf’ but, after growing this mixture, I can see there’s a lot to be gained from a higher spec grass seed. I was impressed with the establishment and consistency of the Scotsward. We’ve had two cuts so far and the silage is high in energy and protein. It was dry at cutting which has helped dry matter too. Overall I’ve been really impressed.”

Bryan’s herd is averaging yields around 8000 litres and he’s keen to see as much of this coming from forage as possible. We’re now getting well over 2,000 litres from forage and it would be good to get to 2,500 litres or even more. Using more productive grass seed mixtures that have proven feed values will certainly help here.”

Looking ahead to the autumn reseeds, Tim is suggesting that Bryan considers Sinclair McGill’s Turbo as the fields are close to the dairy so need a mixture suited to silage and grazing – Turbo fits the bill as it is an ideal fast growing grazing mixture with the potential for one cut of top quality silage.

“With the pressure on milk prices, producers are encouraged to maximise milk production from forage, which means maximising grass production,” adds Sinclair McGill manager Ian Misselbrook.

“Opting for mixtures that are tried and tested and that are designed for specific purposes – be it grazing, cutting or dual purpose – will pay dividends.”