NI takes lead in grass growing competition

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Yara’s Grass Prix 2015 is off to a flying start with growers in Northern Ireland repeating last year’s excellent performance to take an early lead.

David Murphy from County Armagh, taking advantage of good weather, has forged ahead after harvesting dry 9.2 tonnes dm /ha with an energy content of 100,453 MJ/ha worth £1,036/ha.

“For 2015 we have six Irish entrants, and are determined to claim the winning title for Ireland this year,” says Yara’s Irish Business Manager, Nicholas Morrison.

“We have one of the best climates for grass growth so, with added attention to detail, there is no reason we shouldn’t be celebrating an Irish winner.”

The competition, now in its second year, and with more entrants than before, sees leading beef and dairy farmers from the UK and Ireland competing to achieve the highest energy yield from grass and has attracted both new faces and returning competitors from last season.

The Yara Grass Prix winner will be the entrant with the highest Metabolisable Energy yield (ME per ha) averaged over the first two silage cuts.

Last year, recording an average of 122,021MJ/ha, all four Irish entrants - Will Corrie, Donal Callery, Fred Kenwell and Tom Browne - achieved silage energy yields well beyond the Ireland and UK average of 88,000 MJ/ha.

Will Corrie, beef farmer from Newtownards, County Down, who lay in first place at the second cut stage with a excellent (ME) yield of 163,297 MJ/ha, eventually took fourth place overall.

“Grass is a vital part of any livestock enterprise and remains the most cost–effective feed for the dairy, beef and sheep sector either as grazing or conserved forage,” explains Jez Wardman, Grass Prix Organiser and agronomist from Yara.

“It requires careful attention to optimise the output and maximise returns, and too often this is overlooked. Effective nutrition has a vital role in growing grass successfully, in both yield and quality.”

“Grass is everything,” confirms David Murphy who runs his dairy enterprise at Tynan County Armagh together with his father Ian.

“And ME is most important. To make up the difference for poor quality grass could mean feeding an extra 3kg meal per cow per day, which over the whole herd would add up to an extra £6,300 per month off the bottom line.”

Mr Murphy’s herd of 300 cows are housed all year round and fed using a zero grazing system buffer fed with high quality silage.

2014’s competition was hard fought, with all entrants improving their grass growing performance, averaging ME yields of 138,520 MJ/ha over two cuts, significantly beating the UK and Ireland average of 88,000 MJ/ha.

Eventual winner, Scottish dairy farmer Willie Watson, ‘took the chequered flag’ with a Metabolised Energy (ME) yield of 183,927 MJ/ha, and feed value of 17.7DMt/ha and will be defending his title this year.

The entrants into Yara Grass Prix competition for 2015 are:

•Elgan Evans – Dairy farmer from Llanrwst, North Wales

•Robert Tilly – Dairy farmer from Penzance, Cornwall*

•Tom and Simon Browne – Dairy farmers from County Cork, Republic of Ireland*

•James Coumbe – Dairy farm manager at Duchy College, Cornwall

•Drew Wilson - Beef farmer from Forfar, Angus, Scotland

•Willie Watson – Dairy farmer from Ayrshire, south west Scotland*

•Iain Green – Beef farmer from Fochabers, north east Scotland*

•David and Ian Murphy - Dairy farmers from County Armagh, Northern Ireland

•Tom Rawson – Dairy farmer from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire*

•Alan Wallace – Dairy farmer from County Antrim, Northern Ireland

•Eddie Jordan – Dairy farm manager with UCD County Kildare, Republic of Ireland

•Danny and Patrick Cremin – Dairy farmers from County Limerick, Republic of Ireland

•Robert Bryson - Dairy farmer from County Down, Northern Ireland

*Returning competitors from 2014.