Improved performance from grassland is one of the best ways to combat milk and meat price volatility, so a stronger commitment to reseeding should be top of livestock farmers’ lists of priorities this year.
This is the view of David Little of Germinal, who urges farmers to identify their poorest performing leys at the earliest opportunity and adopt a best practice approach to reseeding during the coming year.
“The rewards from renewing grassland will typically include improvements in feed value, higher dry matter intakes, better responses to fertiliser and greater stocking densities,” he says. “My advice is always to go the extra mile with seed bed preparation, soil nutrient supply, seeds mixture selection and drilling – it will pay dividends.”
Adopting best practice with a full grass reseed may cost £200 to £250 per acre, however this can be easily recovered when the impact of the additional feed value created is taken into account.
“A new ley comprising the best performing ryegrass varieties from the Recommended List will produce at least one extra tonne of dry matter per acre in the year when compared with an 8-10 year old pasture,” adds David Little. “In addition, because the newly sown ryegrass will have superior quality we can expect forage to be 5–10 D-value points higher. Independent studies carried out by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development have shown that where enough grass is available to satisfy increased appetite, each additional D-value unit increases milk yield in dairy cows by around 0.4litres/cow/day, whilst the positive impact on growth rates equates to 40g/head/day and 20g/head/day in beef cattle and lambs respectively.
“The combination of extra dry matter and higher quality forage should pay for the reseed in the first year, and the benefits should then continue with a medium term ley for five to seven years under the right management – but without the costs to set against them.
“For most livestock farmers, maintaining the quality and productivity of their grassland will help control production costs by reducing reliance on bought-in feeds. The greater self-sufficiency that results will help businesses to deal with market price volatility.”