Hybrid move paying dividends
Sean Beegan is a full-time farmer near Lecarrow in south Co Roscommon, with approximately 200ac close to the banks of the River Shannon.
Forty store heifers are finished for beef each year but the main enterprise is sheep. "There's a much quicker turnaround time and a far better return on your investment," said Mr Beegan.
220 Lleyn ewes are lambed every spring, with plans to expand that number to 300 over the next 12 months.
With increased stocking rates, Mr Beegan is very focused on optimising grass production with 5pc of the farm being reseeded every April or May. "I'm aiming to ramp this up but cash flow is always tight when you're expanding," he said.
The old pasture is sprayed with glyphosate and grass seed is stitched in with an Einbock spring tine harrow 7-10 days later.
Mr Beegan bought this machine some years ago and does the reseeding work himself. He uses two bags of granulated lime per acre to get pH levels up.
"Avoiding the plough makes it a real low-cost system but it does make it more weather dependent," he admitted.
For this reason, Mr Beegan goes for a hybrid seed, because he believes it has a better chance of surviving a dry spell after sowing.
"You have to plant about 17kg/ac of the hybrid seed just to get the same numbers of seed per acre as a 13kg bag of conventional seed. So it stands to reason that the seeds should have greater energy reserves. It costs an extra €10/ac, but I reckon that I'm still winning by being able to bypass the plough," said Mr Beegan.
He estimates that the seed costs him about €80/ac.
"I priced around a bit but when my local merchant was offering the same as the average price I decided they were as good a bet as any. It's a bit like buying a tractor – you want to be able to have a fellow standing in the field if you need some advice. Shane Coffey in Lecarrow was able to get Dermot Campion from Germinal Seeds, who I found very helpful, especially on the red clover, which not many around here had any experience in," he said.
AberEve was the hybrid grass seed used last year, and Mr Beegan is very satisfied with its performance so far.
"It took extraordinary well and the lambs were grazing on it within one month. It is also excellent for silage," he said.
Two years ago Mr Beegan used a mixture that included the hybrid tetraploid AberExcel with Merviot red clover on 4ac.
"That hybrid is supposed to be 40pc higher yielding than perennial ryegrass mixtures, while at the same time giving decent ground cover," he said.
The naturally higher digestibility and sugar content of the tetraploid has also been allowed to shine in silage analysis.
"The third cut tested 78 for dry-matter digestibility (DMD) and 23pc for protein.
"The clover has really performed well too, with over 22 bales per acre over three cuts, without any nitrogen fertiliser," he claimed.
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