Maximising grassland productivity has never been more important for livestock production systems, as it can increase the level of grass in the diet and reduce supplementary feed costs.
The average level of grass produced nationally is 9.1 t DM/ha, with some farms producing over 15 t DM/ha. However, to hit the high numbers, a commitment to reseeding with the right varieties is essential.
Watch our video below and see how County Tipperary farmer Jim White makes the most of high-quality grazed grass and converts it to milk. Jim explains how quality grass is essential for farm profitability, all done with sustainability in mind.
90% of Irish soils are sub-optimal in terms of pH, Phosphorus (P) or Potassium (K). Without a doubt, this is significantly costing farms throughout the country, especially in terms of underperforming grass swards and the necessity to utilise expensive supplements to overcome grass deficits in the system.
Completing regular soil fertility tests on your farm (at least every three to five years) and using the results to develop a fertiliser program is critical to ensure you can get the most from your swards.
Benefits of reseeding
Given the difficult ground conditions in 2018, many farmers postponed reseeding plans. As a result, reseeding preparations are well underway, with many farmers hoping to rejuvenate underperforming swards and increase sward quality. There are several benefits to reseeding and maintaining perennial ryegrass dominant pastures:
- Increases grass DM yield (+3 t DM/ha compared to older swards).
- Provides more grass at the shoulders of the season (early spring and late autumn). Newer varieties are bred to grow more grass in the spring and autumn, which mean that stock can be let out earlier in the season and supplementation can be reduced.
- Leads to greater total production, which will help increase the carrying capacity of the farm.
- 25% more responsive to fertiliser Nitrogen (N) compared to old permanent pasture.
- Ensures faster re-growths. After grazing, new swards will regrow quicker and are ready for grazing sooner than swards containing a low proportion of perennial ryegrass.
- Increases feeding quality (DMD). Perennial ryegrass is a high-quality plant and much higher in standard than weed grasses, meaning animals will achieve higher intake, increased milk production and growth rates. Ensuring your mixtures contain the best varieties will help result in even greater benefits. AberGain is the highest quality tetraploid and AberChoice is the highest quality diploid available in 2019.
The above benefits will lead to increased grass availability and animal intakes, which will improve animal performance and output, and ultimately result in higher farm profitability.
Choose the right variety
Selecting the right grass varieties is critical to ensure you maximise the performance of your new reseed. Farmers can maximise the value of their reseeding this spring by including the latest top-performing perennial ryegrass varieties.
Some grass varieties are more suited to grazing, while others are more suited to silage. The Department of Agriculture Recommended List of grass varieties and the PPI list contains varieties that have been tried and tested in Ireland.
The PPI, which ranks varieties on the Recommended List in economic terms, and the DAFM Grass Recommended List will help you choose the varieties that will best suit your needs.
AberGain has reclaimed its spot as the top-performing variety overall, at €214 per ha/year and is one of the few varieties to increase its total PPI value in 2019 compared to 2018. AberGain, a late tetraploid, is a hugely popular variety with Irish farmers for both its yield performance, grass quality and ease of graze out.
AberChoice has held its position as the highest performing late diploid, at €189 per ha/year, meaning it is well ahead of the next best late diploid. AberChoice and Drumbo are the only two late diploids with a positive value for quality, which is a key trait when selecting varieties for your mixtures.
Higher quality varieties have the potential to support higher animal intake and performance. This results in better ‘graze-outs’ and increased grass utilisation, which is a proven driver of farm profitability.