Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 24 April 2018

'We aim to reseed 10 to 12pc of the farm annually' - Top grassland farmer sees reseeding as a vital part of the grassland management

Farmers who invest in perennial ryegrass swards can expect payback within two years

Melvin Beamish AIB; Grainne Healy, Teagasc; Dan and Timmy Crowley and Catherine Arundel AIB Bantry pictured at the farm walk on the Crowley holding at Carey’s Cross, Bandon, Co Cork. Photo: Denis Boyle
Melvin Beamish AIB; Grainne Healy, Teagasc; Dan and Timmy Crowley and Catherine Arundel AIB Bantry pictured at the farm walk on the Crowley holding at Carey’s Cross, Bandon, Co Cork. Photo: Denis Boyle
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Reseeding has long been touted as one of the most cost effective on-farm investments, with payback expected within two years.

With quality grass by far the cheapest feed, farmers in all sectors have been urged to put a reseeding plan in place with the aim of reseeding around 10pc of the farm each year.

With high grass utilisation a key driver of profits, farmers gathered on the land of the Grass10 Young Grassland Farmer of the Year Timmy Crowley, in Bandon, Co Cork, were urged to follow a reseeding plan.

Teagasc advisor on the farm, Grainne Hurley, said that reseeding must be combined with good management and soil fertility.

The most productive grassland farms have perennial ryegrass dominated swards.

Recent research from Moorepark shows that old permanent pasture produces, on average, 3t dry matter (DM)/ha per year less than perennial ryegrass dominated swards.

Reseeding is considered extremely cost effective as old permanent pasture is up to 25pc less responsive to available nutrients such as nitrogen than a perennial ryegrass dominated sward.

Key steps

Also Read


  • Spray off old sward
  • Graze sward tightly or mow to minimise surface trash
  • Apply lime
  • Choose a method that suits your farm - ploughing, discing, one-pass or direct drill
  • Soil test
  • Firm fine seedbed with good seed/soil contact is essential
  • Roll after sowing
  • Soil Fertility

Teagasc soil analysis shows that the majority of soils are below the target levels of around 6.3 for pH, and potassium (K) and phosphorus (P) are below Index 3.

It was highlighted that good soil fertility is key to establishing a good reseed.

Teagasc recent research has shown that soils with P index 3 will grow approximately 1.5 t (DM)/ha per year more grass than soils with P Index 1.

Lime is also highlighted as a key soil conditioner which allows earthworms to thrive and helps release stored soil nutrients

Variety choice

Farmers were urged to study the Department of Agriculture's recommended list, showing the Pasture Profit Index values.

In general, a balance between quality, dry matter productivity and sward density is desired, with a decision to be made on whether it is a field that will be predominantly used for grazing or silage.

A combination of seeds delivering high performance in the key traits, with the mix combining diploids and tetraploids will create a dense, high quality sward.

Farmers were advised to use a minimum of 3kg of an individual variety, with no more than three to four varieties in a grass mix, sow 35 kg/ha (14 kg/ac) of seed and ensure they have less than seven days range in heading dates between varieties.

For mixtures for silage paddocks, ensure they have a high level of tetraploid with close heading dates.

For the grazing of sheep, small leaf white clovers are recommended, while medium leaf white clovers are recommended for dairy or beef cattle grazing.

In general to establish a sward with over 25pc white clover around 4kg white clover seed/ha (1.5kg/ac) should be included in the seed mix.

Management

Management of the reseed was also highlighted as important as it takes about 11 months for the new sward to establish and settle into the soil.

High populations of weeds will cause problems and spraying before grazing is key, with the weeds best controlled while the grass is at the two-three leaf stage. The new reseed should be grazed as soon as the plants are around 6-8cm high and don't pull out of the ground.

It is one of the most cost effective investments on the farm with costs estimated at around €253/ac, excluding the post emergence sprays.

This includes ploughing at €60/ac, fertiliser and spreading at €47/ac and grass seed at €60/ac.

'We aim to reseed 10 to 12pc of the farm annually'

An intensive grassland plan has been put in place for the Crowley farm in Bandon as Timmy and his father Dan plan to increase to milk 180 cows in 2019.

It's the attention to the grass and the acknowledgement of its value as the 'cheapest feedstuff' that saw 30-year-old Timmy walk away with the Grass10 Young Grassland Farmer of the Year award. The objective is to achieve 10 grazings/paddock/year utilising 10 tonnes grass DM/ha.

The Crowleys, who have been operating in a farm partnership for five years, farm 82ha of land, including 33ha leased.

"We look at reseeding as a vital part of the grassland management," says Timmy. "We were lucky enough in 2016 to purchase around 15ha of land and it took a good bit of work as it had been in forestry for five years." The additional parcel brings their milking platform to 59ha.

"We aim to reseed around 10pc to 12pc of the farm on an annual basis. My preferred option is the conventional plough route but on some heavier ground we disc and then use the one pass."

Timmy has been part of the mono-culture grassland trial with Moorepark for the past few years. "So I do a lot of single varieties grass seed both tetraploids and diploids. I find that interesting and I'm learning a good bit from it," he said.

Tetraploids

"I'd be more a fan of tetraploids, as I find they are more vigorous and there is better clean out from the cows. "Diploids work well on heavier soil as they are more dense."

However, he said there is no point in putting the grass seed in the ground if the soil fertility isn't right. He has been working hard to improve pH levels and bring the indexes up to 3 and 4. "It took a bit of work, this new ground especially, as it was lacking 5t an acre in lime."

This year they will wait for grass growth to improve before reseeding.


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