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Three steps to a successful sward

Regardless of what reseeding method is chosen, managing a newly-reseeded paddock requires attention to detail. Key factors in creating a high-performing sward are turnaround time, weed control and grazing management.

Turnaround time

The shorter the turnaround time to growing grass again, the better. Farmers should target getting paddocks back into production in less than 60 days, although it is possible to achieve this in considerably less time. The time that the sward is out of production can be minimised by cultivating seven to 10 days after spraying the old sward off.

Weed control

The best time to control docks and all other weeds is after reseeding. Using a post-emergence spray, seedling weeds can be destroyed before they properly develop and establish root stocks.

Established weeds can seriously reduce the grass dry matter yield potential and the economic lifetime of a reseeded sward.

To ensure that a post-emergence spray can be applied, reseeding should be targeted for the spring when both grass establishment and weed control are easier. The post-emergence spray should be applied approximately five-to-six weeks after establishment before the first grazing takes place. This is normally the two-leaf stage.

Grazing management

The sward should be grazed as soon as the new grass plants' roots are strong enough to withstand grazing. In other words, the root stays anchored in the ground when pulled.

Early grazing is important to allow light to the base of the plant, which will encourage tillering. Lighter animals like calves, weanlings or sheep are preferable because ground conditions may still be fragile and larger animals can create high levels of tiller pulling.

The first grazing of a new reseed can take place at pre-grazing yields of 600-1,000kg DM/ha. Frequent grazing of the reseeds at approximately 1,400kg DM/ha over the first year post-establishment will benefit the crop by creating a uniform, well-tillered sward.

Particular care is needed during wet weather because damage to newly established swards can give weed grasses an opportunity to invade.

If possible, newly reseeded swards should not be closed for silage in the first year because the shading effect of heavy covers of grass will inhibit tillering of the new grass plants.

Irish Independent