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Quality Forage Starts with Selecting the Right Mixture

Quality Forage Starts with Selecting the Right Mixture
By Adam Simper 2 months ago

A key factor in producing quality forage is a carefully planned reseeding programme revolving around the core principle that you should aim to reseed 15% of the farm each year.

It is estimated that reseeding costs £250/ acre, making it a major investment, which requires attention to detail throughout the process. The starting point to this is selecting the right grass seed mixture which will suit your end requirements.

If the aim is to produce good quality silage, selecting a mix with a high tetraploid content is important. Tetraploid grasses have high cutting yields with fast regrowth which allows for multiple cuts per year.

Unlike diploid grasses which contain two sets of chromosomes, tetraploid varieties consist of four sets of chromosomes which means they are naturally higher in water-soluble carbohydrates, which helps during the fermentation process within the clamp or bale.

You should also consider how long you require the ley to last. If you’re looking for a short-term ley to act as a catch crop or provide additional forage, opt for Italian ryegrass mixtures such as Wynnstay’s Tower. The mixture establishes rapidly and can provide up to four-five cuts of high-quality silage a year.

Quick growing and high yielding hybrid mixes, such as Wynnstay’s Fortress, are a good consideration for leys lasting three to four years, as they provide quick regrowth for both grazing and silage-making.

For medium and long-term dual-purpose mixes, I recommend Wynnstay’s Sovereign, Herald and Imperial due to their makeup of both Diploids and Tetraploids. For cutting, Wynnstay’s Royal is suitable as it consists of high tetraploid content and a small number of diploids, providing high silage yields with long-term ground cover.

Once the grass mixture has been selected, the following tips will help in ensuring good establishment

• Destroy the old sward using a product containing glyphosate

• Take a soil sample to analyse pH, P and K indices, so that deficiencies can be notified, and a bespoke fertiliser plan can be implemented.

• To create the ‘perfect’ seedbed conditions for establishment, plough, cultivate and roll the seedbed prior to drilling, and apply seedbed fertiliser as required.

• Finally, make sure the seedbed is fine and firm ready for drilling. Once drilled roll again to achieve maximum seed to soil contact. Attention needs to be made to ensure soil temperatures and moisture are adequate for a successful establishment and growth.

We use Fast Grass as a break crop following winter wheat, sowing just under 40 acres each year. The mix establishes very quickly, and in autumn 2018 we were able to drill and take a cut all before the end of the year, producing quality baled and clampsilage. The mix also coped very well with the dry soil conditions following the summer drought. Producing excellent forage for both our dairy and beef herds, Fast Grass is a mixture we’ll continue to use. - David Holroyd, West Yorkshire, Dairy and beef farmer

We direct drilled 20 acres of Fast Grass at a rate of 13kg/acre on 30th July to provide additional forage, following the 2018 drought. We were staggered at how quickly the grass grew into a silage crop and were able to mow the field in the middle of October. It produced 80 round bales of bulky silage, with a great protein content of 18.1% CP, which was as good as our first cut silage. We’re looking to either zero graze or take a further cut from the ley in April before drilling maize, so it’s acted as a great forage booster and will really help in this difficult year. -Richard Fryer, Northwich, Dairy farmer

Silage forms a big part of our dairy ration, so we reseed every five years to maintain quality. We drilled 20 acres of Fortress on 15th September and it’s performed exceptionally well. Our original plan was to graze sheep on the field over the winter, but
the ley has grown so quickly it’s ahead of the stock and so we’re instead looking to take an early first cut in March. This will greatly improve our forage stocks. Fortress will be used again this year when we reseed later in the spring. - Joe Cliffe, Cheshire, Dairy farmer

Adam Simper

Adam Simper

Grass and Root Seed Product Manager

m: 07808 901179

e: adam.simper@wynnstay.co.uk