Farm Ireland

Monday 23 October 2017

How reseeding helped this beef farmer double his stock numbers

Michael Ryan
Michael Ryan

Gordon Peppard

SINCE joining the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef programme, Michael Ryan has doubled the numbers of calves reared and slaughtered from his farm. Carrying higher stock numbers on the same area of land requires more grass.

Michael now reseeds about 10pc of his farm each year. The new grass allows him to increase the carrying capacity of his farm and greatly improve the grass quality.


1. Identify fields for reseeding Poor performing fields should be targeted. Grass measuring or counting the number of grazing on a particular field in the previous year can give a very good idea as to which field are not producing the same as their counterparts. There was a big difference in grass grown and number of grazing’s on paddocks across the farm, low yielding paddocks tended to occur where the perennial ryegrass had fallen below 40-50pc of the sward.

2. When should I reseed? Depending on weather, Michael prefers to reseed in April/early May. There is a shorter turnaround time and conditions are more favourable for germination and establishment. Once the grass has emerged, there are more opportunities to apply a post emergence spray to control docks etc and also the chance to get a light grazing to promote better tillering is possible.

3. Soil test Having a recent soil test of the area that you plan to reseed is very important. Reseeding is a costly operation and everything needs to be right for the grass seed to flourish. Michael has an up to date soil test for phosphorus, potassium and pH at a minimum.

Plans: Michael Ryan is aiming to rear and finish approximately 90 Angus cattle per annum on his farm in Co Westmeath
Plans: Michael Ryan is aiming to rear and finish approximately 90 Angus cattle per annum on his farm in Co Westmeath

4. Spraying off the field The old permanent pasture is always sprayed off with a glyphosate spray. After seven to 10 days, he either grazes or mows the old sward to remove thrash.

5. Decide on method of reseeding All methods are effective when carried out correctly and a fine firm seedbed provided. Nowadays, he tends towards the minimum cultivation techniques. The ground is heavy disked twice and then sown with a one pass. Keeping soil disturbance to a minimum where the most fertile soil is kept at ground level and this ground can also better support machinery and stock for the first grazing.

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6. Lime and fertiliser Irrespective of soil analysis, lime is applied at two tonnes per acre to neutralise the acids from the decaying material. Michael tries to keep thrash to a minimum when using mini till technique as it will release acids which can affect germination. Most of his fields for reseeding have been index 1 and 2 for P and K so three bags of 10/10/20 are applied at sowing. 25 units of nitrogen will be applied four to six weeks after emergence to feed the developing crop. This is generally an application of Sul CAN, but in fields with very low P and K levels, 18-6-12 will be used.

7. Choosing the correct grass seed Michael picks a mixture that is suitable for grazing but which can also be cut for silage if required. Using the Department of Agriculture’s recommended list and the Pasture Profit Index is a great help. To have a range of grass varieties, he selects a mix with four different grass cultivars plus clover. The mix used this year consists of diploid (Aberchoice and Drumbo) and tetraploid (AberGain and Dunluce) cultivars. There is 40pc tetraploids in the mix and 0.75kg clover per acre. The range of heading dates is 10 days, which is the maximum spread that he likes in a mix, ideally this would be closer to seven days. Michael’s sowing rate is 15kg of seed per acre.

8. Roll after sowing To ensure a good seed to soil contact and to help germination, Michael always rolls after sowing. During dry weather, it also helps to hold moisture in the ground and it levels the field, burying stones etc.

9. Post emergence management Depending on growth, around six weeks after sowing when the grass is at the two to three-leaf stage is the best time to control weeds. His two main target weeds are docks and chickweed if present. Docks are most successfully controlled at this stage as they haven`t yet established a good tap root. With clover in the mix he uses a clover safe product like Legumex DB plus triad or Underclear.

10. Graze low covers First grazing is done as soon as plants do not pull out of the ground. Grass will generally have a cover of 800–1 000kg (7-8cm). Grazing low covers means you can get in and out of the paddock quickly, minimising damage and promoting tillering. Avoiding cutting the new reseed for silage in the first year is critical to the long term establishment of the grass.

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