Increasing grassland productivity has never been more important. In order to maximise animal performance from pasture we must first ensure we are optimising the production of grass at farm level.
The average level of grass produced nationally is 9.1 t DM/ha, with the top farms producing over 15 t DM/ha. There is huge scope to increase the total grass grown and hence increase grass in the diet, while reducing feed costs in livestock production systems.
Soil fertility is critical to maximising the performance and longevity of swards at farm level. Almost 90% of all soils are sub-optimal in terms of pH, phosphorus (P) or potassium (K). Without doubt, this is costing farms throughout the country significantly in terms of under-performing grass swards and the necessity to bring in more expensive supplements to overcome grass deficits in the system. Completing regular soil fertility tests on your farm (every 3 to 5 years) and using the results to develop a fertiliser program is critical to ensure you can get the most from your swards.
Reseeding is important as a mechanism to increase the perennial ryegrass content in swards. There are several benefits to reseeding and maintain perennial ryegrass dominant pastures:
- Provide more grass at the shoulders of the season (early spring and late autumn)
- 25% more responsive to fertiliser N compared to old permanent pasture
- Increased feeding quality
- Faster re-growth
- Greater total production and so can increase the carrying capacity of the farm
Selecting the right varieties for your particular requirements is critical to ensure you maximise the performance and value of your new reseed. Varieties will perform differently depending on the management (e.g. grazing or silage). Using the DAFM Grass Recommended List and the Teagasc Pasture Profit Index will help ensure you choose the best varieties for your needs.
The top late heading varieties on the 2019 Teagasc Pasture Profit Index, include: AberGain, AberChoice and Drumbo. These three varieties are included in Top 5 Extend – a premium grazing mixture, specially designed for intensive grazing systems, but also suited to a one-cut silage system. AberGain is the highest variety overall on the PPI for quality, with AberChoice the best diploid overall. High quality grasses will ensure a more palatable sward, with higher animal intakes and increased animal performance.