Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

Grass index to help make choice of varieties easier

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

New grass trials introduced by the Department of Agriculture this year will help farmers choose the varieties that will last for longer under real farm conditions.

The new simulated grazing protocol will more closely mimic the on-farm realities of grazing by cows, compared with the old grass trials.

Under this new system, each grass variety considered to have potential to be on the Department's recommended list will be cut six times to mimic four on-farm grazing rotations and two silage cuts.

Teagasc grassland expert Michael O'Donovan said the new testing protocol would provide information on the persistency of each variety.

"Persistency in grass varieties is a bit like fertility in cows -- you need the variety to last as long as possible in the sward," Mr O'Donovan said.


The new simulated grazing protocol will run for the next three years and will feed into the economic breeding index that Teagasc is working on.

"We are building a database of information from the grazing protocol and from monocultures that are already being grown out on farms," he added.

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Incidentally, New Zealand grassland researchers have also recently begun to focus on developing an economic index for grass varieties suitable for their own climate.

Commenting on the recommended list for grass varieties (right), John Donworth said that all of the readings are expressed as a percentage of a controlled variety.

He pointed out that good spring and autumn growth are critical to Ireland's grazing system, while good ground cover was also important.

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