Reseeding is key to unlocking the land's potential
An intensive reseeding programme being rolled out on a Kilkenny farm in response to the sharp rise in cow numbers.
Since taking over the family farm outside Callan from his parents John and Joan 18-months ago, 30-year-old PJ O'Keeffe has been continuing a massive development of the physical infrastructure above and below the ground.
He has been following a rapid expansion plan that saw the 162ha farm with a milking platform of 123ha move from milking 72 cows in 2011 to 320 this year, with 400 in sight by 2018.
To keep up with the ever growing demand for the 'cheapest feedstuff' grass from his expanding, PJ plans to reseed around 15pc or 25ha of the farm this year. In 2015 PJ and Pádraic McGrath, who works full-time on the farm, reseeded around 60ha in total after renting an additional 26ha.
"I want to grow a lot of grass - it is as simple as that. I want to maximise what the farm can do," he says. "I believe reseeding every five years will do that - 20pc of the farm each year is my target, with 15pc being reseeded this year. I'm cutting it back 5pc for cashflow," explains PJ who hosted a Teagasc spring grazing walk on his farm.
Rather than opting for a mixed sward, PJ says he is going to opt for straight AberGain grass seed, which is the highest performing late tetraploid variety on the Pasture Profit Index (PPI) with a profitability of €199/ha/year.
"It looks a heavy farm but it is well able to cope. Cows absolutely nail the AberGain down to the ground, it has great palatability. I know that is showing on the Pasture Profit Index but it is showing on the ground to me, often times you see things working on paper that won't work on your farm.
"I've tried numerous different mixes. I've had grass in fields that I've had to take out after two years as cows just weren't grazing it out."
He says "consistency" is important with the diet of the cows, and he feels reseeding with the single variety AberGain will deliver it as they won't be picking and choosing between pastures.