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Grassland Toolkit Cover _Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:09 Page 1

Grassland Toolkit

February 2016

Your essential guide to grassland management A Dairy Farmer publication in association with:

Team of experts troubleshoot system


Advice on grass and clover selection


Why do you need an agronomist?


Award-winning farmer shares tips


GT 2016 p2 3 4 5 Introduction_Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:12 Page 1

Introduction Maximising milk from forage, and particularly grass, is a sure way to improve profitability. In Dairy Farmer’s second Grassland Toolkit we speak to farmers who are benefiting from treating grass as a crop and get some practical tips on grassland management.

Data shows potential for farms to make better use of low cost forage


oor milk price,

figures are on the up, but

Manager show a growing

litres a cow a day, compared

coupled with an

data suggests there is poten-

number of dairy farmers are

to 6.4 litres the previous year.

excellent growing

tial for more farms to make

placing a greater emphasis

Forage – and in particular

season means UK

better use of low cost forage.

on forage as a means of

grazed grass – remains one

Results from Kingshay Dairy

improving efficiencies in

of the cheapest feeds avail-

challenging times.

able to farmers and as such

milk from forage

Graph 1: Milk from forage

Source: Kingshay

has a vital role to play in Levels

driving down costs (see

Having consistently declined

Graph 2, p3).

over the last three years,

Kingshay’s senior farm

rolling milk from forage levels

services manager Kathryn

for 2015 were 2.3% higher

Rowland says the upward

than 2014. In fact, for the

climb in milk from forage has

month of September, milk

been due to a combination of

from forage was 28% higher

weather and economics.

than September 2014 (see

“The last time milk from

Graph 1, left). This puts milk

forage was this high was in

from forage figures at 8.2

2011. Largely this has been

The Coombes family (see page 4) have a focus on forage in their herd of 217, 11,531-litre pedigree Holsteins which they run in Wedmore, Somerset.



GT 2016 p2 3 4 5 Introduction_Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:12 Page 2

Graph 2: Total cost of forage production

Source: Kingshay

lar stocking rate. Added

■ Regularly analysing for-

costs on these lower yielding

ages to ensure rations are

systems can have big impli-

balanced effectively.

cations to the bottom line, so

■ Looking ahead to the graz-

it is important these systems

ing season and planning how

look at how they can make

you can get more milk from

the best use of both grazed

grazed grass.

and conserved forage.

■ Having a flexible approach

Mrs Rowland says, regard-

achieved by lowering ‘other

Analysis of milk from forage

to silage-making and

less of system, shifting the

planning for quality.

focus towards forage will ulti-

■ Challenging later lactation

mately bring huge savings in

cows and lower yielding

purchased feed, which will

animals to get more from

help to reduce the total costs


purchased feeds’ which

figures based on overall yield

includes bulk feeds such as

(see Graph 3, below) shows

brewers’ grains and supple-

all herds, regardless of yield,

ranked by milk from forage in

Mr Simpson adds: “You

ments. Concentrate use per

could improve performance

the yield band 7,000 to 8,000

should still be able to hit milk

litre has stayed about the same

from forage. Data shows

litres per cow, saved 3.15

production objectives while

at 0.31kg/litre,” she says.

most high yielding herds are

pence per litre compared to

targeting more milk from for-

turning to the cake bag to

the bottom 25%. For a 150-

age. Good herds will always

increase production.

cow herd achieving 7,500

keep efficiencies at a high

litres per cow, that equates to

level, regardless of the

a saving of £35,438 per year

market environment.

Despite cutting out ‘ration extras’, overall milk yields have generally been

In fact, the bottom

maintained and

25% ranked on

of milk production. “The top 25% of herds

ds will milk from forage Good her produced just p e e k s y a year-on2% of their alw high a t a s ie year. c e production efficien h t f o s s dle Farms from forage, vel, regar onment le which have while the top nvir market e achieved 25% achieved Simpson d r a h ic R better produc29%. This shows

in purchased feed costs,”

tion from forage

have reduced by just 1%

there is substantial

she says. Kingshay’s development


“Make a note of what you do in challenging times to produce the cheapest milk.

director Richard Simpson

Then, when prices eventually

says knowing your farm’s

pick up, ask yourself how

financial and performance

you can use future profits

figures, and comparing them

effectively, such as by

with other, similar herds is a

investing in tracks and

good way of highlighting

improving pasture by using

have generally done so by

scope for these higher pro-

areas for improvement. He

the right grass varieties

focusing on producing better

ducing herds to make better

also recommends:

which are fit for purpose.”

quality forage and regularly

quality conserved forage and

challenging the ration.

increase milk from forage.

Graph 3: Milk yield by yield band

Source: Kingshay

Mrs Rowland adds: “The biggest improvements seen


were through the grazing

Results also show many

season as many farmers

herds producing less than

were making better use of

6,000 litres a cow a year,

grazed grass. This was par-

could also improve their for-

ticularly clear to see in

age management. The top

England and Wales as they

25% were achieving 64%

had a good growing season.

from forage, while the bottom

Scotland was a lot more

25% were producing just


25% from forage, with a simi-



GT 2016 p2 3 4 5 Introduction_Layout 1 29/01/2016 12:01 Page 3

Case study


Family focuses on conserved forage


eeding high quality

Mr Coombes, who farms at

grass silage and con-

New Grove Farm, Wedmore,

served forage ranks

Somerset, with his sons Jack

highly on the

and Sam, says harvest timing

Coombes family’s list

and reseeding are the main

of priorities in their herd of 217,

reasons why they are able to

11,531-litre pedigree Holsteins.

make such high quality grass

Barry Coombes says: “A focus on forage makes a more

reserves. “It is all about timing. We now

sustainable high yielding sys-

have our own forage wagon

tem. Cows really don’t like a lot

which helps us boost quality as

of concentrate and I feel they

we can go when we want. We

are healthier and last longer if

will make the decision in the

you feed more forage. It also

morning, rather than have a set

Barry Coombes sees feeding high quality grass silage to his herd as a priority.

helps keep concentrate costs

date,” he says.

seven weeks will be left


Grass silage is fed at 16.6kg a

between each cut, with three to

head, along with 22.8kg maize,

ME increase

four cuts taken every year.

6.5kg chopped fodder beet,

crash has further reaffirmed this

The Coombes have found the

Grassland is reseeded every

5kg blend, 0.5kg C16, 0.5kg

attitude to forage is the right

method of using a wagon over

four to five years using a cutting

protected linseed, 0.5kg

one and challenged the family

a precision chopper also

and grazing mix including a

chopped straw, 3.4kg caustic

to identify where they can make

increases ME. Mr Coombes

festulolium, a hybrid and inter-

wheat, 100g acid buff and

further improvements to forage.

believes the longer harvest

mediate and late heading

yeast and mycotoxin binder.

chop length of about 10-20cm


Cows are then fed to yield in

In fact, the recent milk price

However, with this year’s first

Mr Coombes adds: “We apply

the parlour up to a maximum of

cut grass silage analysing at

(4-8in) versus 2.5-5cm (1-2in)

30% dry matter with a D value

with the chopper also makes

2,000 gallons an acre on after-

of 75.9, an ME of 12.1 and a

for less damage and better

maths and we have found since

crude protein of 15.4%, they

quality at ensiling.

we have reseeded regularly we


get a lot better response so we

In June 2015 the Coombes

can reduce fertiliser use.”

made the decision to move

are already achieving top levels

“Once it’s gone through the

of performance. This helps

mixer wagon, the actual silage

them attain a margin over pur-

chop length is only a bit longer

With soil analysis results iden-

4kg a head a day.

from twice-a-day to three-

chased feed (MOPF) of

at feed-out, but I

tifying good P and K indices,

times-a-day milking as a means

22.74ppl or £2,621.89/cow.

think it’s got to be

the family has also moved to

of making the most of high

better for rumen

using straight nitrogen, rather

yielding genetics. As a result,

health,” he says.

than a compound. Grass is

total production has increased

planted in rotation with cereals

by 1,000 litres a day, while con-

when they are

and maize, with an agronomist

centrate feeding has increased

ready, rather

used to offer advice on

slightly from 0.29kg/litre to

than cutting the

management. Mr Coombes

0.33kg/litre. This has involved

whole farm at

believes strongly grass should

caustic treating home-grown

once. Grass

be treated as a crop.

wheat, which has helped rumen

m factsre r a F e v o r G w Ne co co

s on Tes r Wiseman lle u M s lie p pSup 4 ss, 5.6ha (1 contract acres) gra (14 0 0 a h (3 .7 s 5 re ta s) wheat, re p121 hec c a 5 (3 ) maize ey, 14ha (120 acres a acres) barl h .6 8 4 t, matter, der bee 29.5% dry t acres) fod a d e s ly a aize an p2015 m , 8.2% CP y h, 11.1ME rc ead per da ta 32% s DMI per h + g k 6 -2 f 25 e pTarget o from forag 14kg DM t s a le t a with after 12 t of 7.5ppl ow a year c pFeed cos a s re lit f 12,400 ay milking pTarget o -times-a-d e re th n o months


Fields will be cut

will also only

“It’s got to be the right way to

be cut after

go. You need to get as much as

Milk from forage has dropped

12-1pm to

possible out of the land produc-

slightly from 3,900 litres a cow a


tivity wise, so you need a good

year to 3,741 litres, but the aim

quality crop,” he says.

is to hit a target of 4,000 litres.

sugars. Six to



GT 2016 p2 3 4 5 Introduction_Layout 1 29/01/2016 12:01 Page 4

Case study


Farmer makes leap to a grazing-based system


time. I could not justify taking on

hauled his system and replaced

compared to about 30ppl on an

beef and sheep with a herd of

all-year-round Holstein system,

425 dairy cows.

as another reason to focus on

– it was like putting petrol on a

drilled in spring using different

grazing. He believes the system

fire. Soil testing was crucial to it

mixes of intermediate and late

dairy farms benefit from convert-

and type of cow used also

all as it’s allowed us to be tar-

diploids and tetraploids, plus or

ing to New Zealand-style graz-

builds flexibility into the busi-

geted and up performance,”

minus a white clover blend.

ing systems, Mr Clwyd decided

ness. This means concentrate

says Mr Clwyd.

to take the leap himself. The

use and costs can be cut when

Predominately in autumn

ily in farm infrastructure, which

main driver was the belief such a

milk price is poor or inputs and

40.5ha (100 acres) were also

has seen extensive tracks and

system would make better use

yields increased when milk price

reseeded, selecting the worst

fences installed. Grazing

of his farm’s natural ability to

is good.

paddock based on perennial

ground has been split into 4ha

uw Clwyd is so convinced a forage-

a man with beef and sheep,”

based system is the

says Mr Clwyd.

most sustainable option, he has over-

Having seen neighbouring

He cites a potential spring milk cost of production of 21.5ppl,

grow grass and help safeguard

Huw Clwyd has overhauled his system to safeguard his farming business.

The family has invested heav-

rye-grass levels. Improvements

(10-acre) fields which are strip-

the business against falling


in dry matter yields have been

or paddock-grazed, depending

Basic Payments.

Work to convert the two farms

marked, with these reseeded

on grass growth. Grass is moni-

He says: “The New Zealand

started in June 2014. Having

fields producing an average 16t

tored weekly with a plate meter.

system suits our farm to a T. It’s

extended their tenancy for an-

DM versus 12-13.5t DM. From

Mr Clwyd adds: “In spring we

an early and dry farm so we can

other 20 years, the aim is to use

now on, 10% of the farm will be

start grazing at 2,400kg DM/ha

turnout on February 1. In spring

the 138ha (340-acre) tenanted

reseeded every year.

and graze down to 1,500kg

the grass just keeps growing as

farm as the milking platform,

we have got the warm air coming in from the sea.” Mr Clwyd farms 227 hectares

About 5% will be grass-to-

DM/ha and aim for residuals of

and the 89ha (220-acre) home

grass reseeds and the remain-

1,500kg DM/ha every time. We

farm for youngstock and forage

ing reseeds will follow fodder

want as much grass as possi-

production. In 2014, 440 in-calf

beet and turnips, which are

ble and as much milk from

(560 acres) near Colwyn Bay.

Friesian cross Jersey heifers

used to out-

grass as possible.”

The business is split between

were bought from Ireland.


two farms; Llwyn Richard, which

Most of the grassland work has

is owned in a family partnership,

been carried out on the grazing

and Plas Isa which is tenanted.

platform, with every field soil

With limited buildings and the

tested in 2014 and again in Feb-

‘astronomical expense’ of put-

ruary 2015. Almost every field

ting up new sheds, a grass-

had low pH and phosphate lev-

based dairy system was the only

els, with the lowest pH at 5.2 and

option when considering how

some phosphate indexes of 0.

the business might evolve. “It was the simplicity, profitabil-

“We used 400 tonnes of lime in autumn 2014 and in March 2015

ity and better way of life which

we put Diammonium phosphate

attracted me to the New

on every field at 250kg/ha. We

Zealand system. On this system

saw the difference straight away.

I could employ a cowman full-

The colour and growth changed

Farm fact s

p440 in -calf Fri esian c in 2014 ross Je rsey he the herd. pCalve ifers bo end of J ught fro a m Irelan nuary in first two Grass is d three-m months onth blo pHeife then c rs will c k . 9 5 % alve ins calve in p4,000 ide an litr direct protein. es a cow a yea d cows outside Aim r at 5.7 5% butt from now on p4.5km ing for 5,500 erfat an litres of wate d 4.19% r pipe a p0.5t c nd 3km oncentr of cow ate fed p120 s tracks la a cow p ilag id er year in 2015 e bales taken for man agemen pCows t off gra ser zing gro sweepe ved to Kiwi cro und r bulls u ss – AI’ d s ed for five pTwo c weeks, uts silag then e taken ground off 40.5 is dry in ha (100 summe acres) a r and at nd fed w the bac hen k end o f year most of



GT 2016 p6 7 8 Surgery_Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:15 Page 1

Surgery Giles and Emily Bristol are at the top of their game when it comes to grassland management, but in a drive to never become complacent, they invited a team of experts to troubleshoot their system and got some valuable take-home messages as a result.

Experts assess if couple is making most out of grass


s soon as Giles and Emily Bristol took

system continuously adapted. However, with limited acreage

Emily and Giles Bristol have been yield from forage-focused from day one. so it’s a good way to insulate

there was greater potential

ourselves by utilising what we

from smaller Jersey cross

have on farm,” he said.

Friesian cows.

on their 10-year

and high stocking rates, the

council tenancy,

Bristols are constantly under

they were straight

pressure to optimise perform-


Farming Awards’ New Entrant

off the blocks in their drive to

ance. As a result, the pair were

When the pair took over the

of the Year 2015, said: “We

create a sustainable system

keen to invite the Toolkit’s team

farm, the leys were predomi-

were on a liquid contract, but

which made the most of limited

of experts (see panel, page 7)

nantly old and worn out. Short-

we have now moved to a solids


onto farm as a means of trou-

term Italian rye-grass and

contract so we can push more

bleshooting their system.

hybrids were used initially to

milk from grazed forage. We’re

boost production and then they

doing 5,400 litres now at 4.5% butterfat and 3.5% protein.

The Bristols farm 24 hectares (60 acres) at Barn Field Farm,

Speaking to the team, Mr

Mr Bristol, who was the British

Penkridge, Staffordshire, plus

Bristol explained making the

began longer term improve-

3.8ha (9.4 acres) on short-term

most of grass had been a

ments by reseeding with dual-

lets. Over the last three years,

priority from day one. “We’ve

purpose leys suitable for an

stocking rate as cows are

extensive reseeding work has

always been yield from forage-

autumn block-calving system.

smaller and we can stock

been undertaken, paddock

focused as we can see the

infrastructure improved and the

volatility in the world markets,

Having initially chosen to milk Holsteins, they quickly realised

“We’ve been able to increase

highly off the back of grass reseeds (due to improved performance). We are now at 97 cows on 25ha. Because we’re so highly stocked, we’re on a knife edge – if we don’t produce grass, we’re stuffed.” Cows calve in an eight- to 10-week block starting on August 1. Dry cows are managed on a sacrifice paddock and receive hay, straw and potatoes. They are then brought inside onto straw yards two-

The Bristols have extensively reseeded and improved paddock infrastructure on-farm over the last three years.



three weeks before calving.

GT 2016 p6 7 8 Surgery_Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:15 Page 2

After calving, cows start the

12ha (30 acres) of first cut was

grazing rotation. Last year

bought, along with silage bales

(2015) fields were split into

and hay bales.

0.5ha (1.2-acre) paddocks to enable 12-hour grazings. A


grass plate meter is used to

About 70% of land has been

produce a grazing wedge, with

reseeded in the last three

cows grazing down to 1,500kg

years. Silage ground is re-

DM/ha (605kg DM/acre).

seeded with an Italian

The herd receives 4-6kg con-

rye-grass and Westerwold mix

centrate/cow/day and cows

in spring. In its second year

are offered round bales in

this ground is then over-

August/ September, when

seeded with a longer term mix

ground is dry. The aim is to

which is also used on grazing

house cows for as little as pos-

ground. This is made up of

sible, with the grazing season

festuloliums, intermediate and

generally running from mid-

late tetraploid PRG and hybrid

February to mid-November.


About 12ha (30 acres) of first

Jersey cross Friesian cows are milked at the farm. PICTURES: Tim Scrivener leys are clean. Having experi-

Mr Bristol explained using the

Mr Bristol said: “It’s the first

enced issues with bore thistles,

year we’ve used sulphur and

cut and 8ha (20 acres) of sec-

short-term Westerwold mix

Mr Bristol worked hard to

we saw a big effect. We got a

ond cut are taken off the home

ensured paddocks were not

remove them by hand. Half of

lot more grass growth and the

farm. This ground is grazed

out of production for long

one field was also sprayed for

grass was so green.”

once in the spring and then

compared to using turnips as a

docks in 2015.

shut up. The second cut is

breakcrop. Ground is sprayed

taken at 37% DM and clamped

off with gyphosate and treated

about 259kg N over 27.8ha

spring dose is given to grazing

with potatoes. A cling film

for frit fly prior to a reseed and

(68.8 acres). In the 2015

paddocks. Farmyard manure is

sheet, black sheet and tyres

grass is planted using min-till.

season, urea was applied in

exported on a muck for straw

February, followed by ammo-

arrangement with a local arable

although buying-in silage cre-

nium nitrate (AN) in April and

farm. Soils were last tested in

own. Last year’s cut averaged

ates issues with introducing

May. This was then switched to

2013, which showed some

32%, 68.9 D value, 11ME and

dock seeds. Generally, good

a 25.0.16+7 SO3 compound in

fields had low potash (K)

14.6% protein. An additional

control at reseeding ensures


indexes of 1.

are used on the clamp. First cut is clamped on its

Weed levels are generally low,

Fertiliser is applied at a rate of

Slurry is applied to all ground in early spring and another


Meet the experts

George Fisher, CF Fertilisers

Helen Mathieu, Germinal GB

Peter Smith, Volac

Dick Dyason, Nufarm

Area of interest: Fertiliser and

Area of interest: Grass variety

Area of interest: Well made and

Area of interest: Crop


selection and reseeding

managed silage

management and herbicides



GT 2016 p6 7 8 Surgery_Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:15 Page 3

Surgery Grassland Toolkit team suggestions Mr Bristol said he would like to find

fertiliser use and a limited number

gibberellic acid when grass is shut

response to Mr Bristol’s concerns

ways to:

of clover safe sprays. However, Ms

up. Cows are stocked to 6.5

over sward openness, Ms Mathieu

■ Address issues with open

Mathieu said: “Modern varieties of

cows/ha during spring, so gib may

pointed out using a high percent-


clover tolerate competition with

give me a bit more breathing room.”

age of Italian rye-grasses,

■ Boost silage quality.

grass a lot more and can cope with

■ Improve early season growth.

more fertiliser. I would suggest

applied to healthy, actively growing

general would naturally lead to

■ Address heating problems in the

introducing it slowly, either by

grass and would not effect any

less ‘bottom’ in the sward. She

clamp of grass silage and potatoes.

over-seeding or in a seed mix.”

additional fertiliser strategy.

also felt there was an issue with

With this in mind, the Grassland Toolkit team suggested:

Dr Fisher explained this would also

Westerwolds and tetraploids in


bring long-term benefits to sward

5) Thinking about clamp


consolidation and management

something is killing it. It could be

Peter Smith, from Volac, said the

bibionids or fly maggots,” she added.

1) Applying sulphur in spring and

“I think it’s dead grass, so

using AN throughout

3) Building soil Ks and soil testing

Bristols could reduce clamp

CF Fertiliser’s George Fisher said:


wastage by paying greater attention

“Having already seen a marked

Having not undertaken any soil

to consolidation and using an

treat with chlorpyriphos in the

improvement in grass growth and

testing since they took over the farm



visual quality, you could really

three years ago, Dr Fisher and Ms

benefit from using a sulphur-

Mathieu suggested soil testing as

various points in the clamp

7) Selecting mixes with closer

containing fertiliser in spring as well

soon as possible and continuing to

containing grass silage layered with

heading dates and avoiding

as mid-season.

do so every two years.

potatoes, Mr Smith identified a 20-


degree difference between the top

To improve sward density, quality

and bottom of the face.

and evenness, Ms Mathieu sug-

Mr Dyason said his advice is to

After using a temperature probe at

“The soils are medium/light here,

Looking at the 2013 analysis, Dr

so sulphur will be easily flushed out.

Fisher said: “Your Ks are quite low –

You’re under pressure on the area of

that really impacts on grass growth.

grassland you have so I suggest this

On your system you’re also remov-

perature in the clamp, one-quarter

ing varieties with closer heading

will help,” he said.

ing more [nutrients] than the previ-

of a per cent of dry matter is lost

dates. This should be a mix of

ous system, so you need to sample

each day. Getting more weight on

intermediate and late diploids and

start of the season instead of urea

more regularly, especially on

the top of the clamp will reduce

tetraploids plus white clover.

due to the fact air temperature and

reseeds, otherwise you could be

this,” he said.

rainfall have to be perfect to make

wasting your investment.”

He also advised using AN at the

“For every 1degC increase in tem-

He suggested putting straw bales

gested selecting mixtures contain-

She also said moving away from Westerwolds as they are inherently

or round bales on top of the clamp

low in D value and ME which could

by applying Muriate of Potash in

for added weight, using side sheets,

be impacting silage quality. The

2015 from your local weather

autumn and then using NKS

flat rolling and a suitable additive.

Westerwolds also tend to have very

station. It shows you would have

compounds during the season.

efficient use of urea (see page 15). “I’ve looked at the weather data for

He advised building soil K levels

suffered a yield penalty from using

“You get a lot of soil and clostridial

aggressive winter growth, leading

bacteria on potatoes, so the poten-

to excessive cover and the risk of winter kill.

urea instead of AN of at least 7%,

4) Using gibberellic acid

tial for spoilage is greater. Using an

because conditions were not opti-

To maximise early season growth,

additive means you’ve got specifi-

mum when you applied,” he said.

Dick Dyason, from Nufarm, sug-

cally selected bugs to help dominate

Westerwold leys in spring. I think

gested applying the plant growth

the natural fermentation, which

the quality difference may convince

2) Introducing white clover

stimulator gibberellic acid in spring

drops the pH rapidly, making it more

you not to do it. Instead, you could

Both Dr Fisher and Germinal GB’s

(see page 20).

difficult for spoilage organisms to

consider planting spring wheat at a

establish,” he said.

low rate, undersown with grass. It

Helen Mathieu suggested the

“You could spray in spring and get

“I would sample some of the

Bristols start introducing white

a bigger first cut or graze and spray

clover into their system.

when cows are moved,” said Mr

6) Monitor ground pest challenge

has gone, compared to the Wester-


in spring

wolds which tend to hang around,”

After assessing grass swards in

she said.

The Bristols had highlighted a reluctance to do so due to their high


Mr Dyason emphasised it must be

Mr Bristol said: “I’m keen to try

means when you cut it, the wheat


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GT 2016 p10 11 12 Variety Selection_Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:16 Page 1

Variety selection Selecting grass mixes with similar heading dates and introducing red clover leys is part of one Welsh farming family’s strategy to boost silage quality and reduce costs.

Family benefits from careful choices ince cows were


the ultimate aim of bringing

more as a crop compared to

housed two years

farm heading dates closer

the old system,” he says.

ago, the Jones

together, to boost silage

With the farm’s Arla milk con-

family, who farm

quality and consistency.

tract placing greater emphasis

fat and 3.4% protein. Since

on milk constituents, housing

2013, only dry cows and in-calf

the Lower Conwy Valley, have


cattle also helps achieve year-

heifers are grazed on separate

turned their attention to improv-

Arfon Jones says bringing

round consistency in milk but-

grazing ground. The aim is to

ing silage quality by carefully

milking cows inside has made

terfats and protein. A mix of

run a simple, forage-based

selecting grass and clovers to

grassland management easier

heavy clay and medium loam

system, with a focus on pro-

meet their requirements.

and improved grassland pro-

soils, with 1,015mm of rainfall a

ducing high quality conserved

duction, while also benefiting

year, also means the farm has

forage from dedicated ground.

milk production.

good grass growing potential,

Tal-y-Cafn Uchaf, in

Red clover and perennial rye-grass (PRG) mixes have been planted with the aim of

“When we grazed and con-

but is not ideal for grazing. Mr Jones farms in partnership

The 100-cow Holstein Friesian herd yields 8,500 litres a cow per year at 4.3% butter-

Mr Jones says: “Forage is very important. On this type of system it all comes down to

increasing home-grown pro-

served grass it was difficult to

tein, reducing reliance on

get the fields as you wanted

with his wife Ann, with their

conserved forage. It’s easier to

bought-in fertilisers and lower-

them. Cutting everything

sons Gethin and Gerallt also

manage cows as they’re on the

ing costs. New late heading

means we have more land

helping with some of the man-

same feed all-year-round.”

PRG and white clover leys

available and it’s easier to

agement of the farm, while run-

Grassland improvements are

have also been drilled, with

manage. We now treat grass

ning their contracting business.

ongoing, with the family taking advice from their agronomist Rhys Owen and independent nutritionist Steve Caldwell. Over the last three years 24.3 hectares (60 acres) of the 32.4ha (80 acres) of grass silage ground has been reseeded, with most of the work carried out in late summer 2015. A third of the silage ground has now been drilled with a late heading tetraploid and diploid PRG mix plus a white clover blend. Eight hectares (20 acres) of heavy ground, not suitable for a winter crop, was also planted with a short-term Italian rye-grass. This will eventually be planted with the late heading PRG mix after improving land drainage.

Arfon Jones (left) and son Gethin aim to run a simple, forage-based system on-farm in the Lower Conwy Valley.



In 2015, the farm began

GT 2016 p10 11 12 Variety Selection_Layout 1 29/01/2016 11:11 Page 2

The 100-cow Holstein Friesian herd yields 8,500 litres per cow per year.

The Jones family have turned their attention to improving silage quality.

introducing red clover mixes

following crop. For example,

seeder and then Cambridge

before others and we felt we

into the system. This involved

when winter wheat follows the

rolled again.

were getting variation in quality

drilling about a third of silage

lupin mix, only farmyard ma-

“We then use a flat roller to

ground with a mix of interme-

nure is required at planting.

get the stones down. Consoli-

get some difference between

diate diploid and tetraploid

Bought-in nitrogen totalling

dation is important to get the

fields, but we want to see if this

PRG, plus long-term, five-year

34.5 units/acre will then be

seed-to-soil contact. We then

helps,” he adds.

red clovers.

applied in spring. Overall, the

don’t put fertiliser on until the

between fields. You will always

All field work, except forage

The plan is to plant whole-

new management strategy has

following spring. If we have a

harvesting, is carried out by

crop in rotation with grass and

enabled the farm to make bet-

clean stubble, we may do min-

Mr Jones’ sons’ contracting

clover reseeds. Currently the

ter use of slurry and farmyard

till and not plough. We’ll take


farm grows 4ha (10 acres)


the wholecrop, spray, leave, go

Grass is harvested using a

on with an express disk, power

mower conditioner and some-

spring barley and 7.7ha (19 acres) winter wheat. To meet


harrow and seed or use a roller

times tedded, depending on

Glastir requirements 8.5ha (21

Grass reseeds will be carried


weather, to achieve the dry

acres) of a triticale and lupin

out in autumn when following

mix is also planted.

wholecrop. Alternatively, grass-

Jones says the aim is to match

to-grass reseeds will be put

heading dates across the farm

have been using red clover to

down in late-spring or late-

so all fields are

increase [feed] protein and


ready for

Mr Jones adds: “Recently we

reduce the use of nitrogen as

With the new reseeds, Mr

Mr Jones says: “We burn off

cutting at

we want to reduce fertiliser use

with Roundup most of the time,

the same

due to cost. With the triticale

especially if there’s clover in the

time, which

and lupins, you also don’t need

new leys as you don’t want

will max-

fertiliser as it’s nitrogen fixing.”

weed problems.”

imise quality

Growing these legume crops

Slurry or farmyard manure will

and consis-

also helps improve soil struc-

then be applied prior to

ture and boost soil nitrogen

ploughing, then cultivated with

levels, which means less artifi-

a disk or power harrowed,

some fields

cial fertiliser is needed in the

seeded with a Cambridge roller

were ready

tency. “Before,


matter required. The aim is for a 24-hour wilt and a silage


ts Farm fac l es) tota 50 acr (1 a h g .7 in p60 nd calv ear-rou cements at pAll-y pla es sold own re ss calv o r c pRear y ir and da old pBulls ks t six wee dically and a four to io r e sted p pSoil te ssary ing n nece ar e h reseed w d applie n a ye pLime age cuts take il s e pThre


GT 2016 p10 11 12 Variety Selection_Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:17 Page 3

Variety selection Top tips on grass and clover selection Germinal GB’s national agricultural

yield, there is a difference of 8% or

need varieties which grow at the

cope in grazing situations. Small leaf

sales manager Ben Wixey provides

0.83 tonnes DM/ha/year (0.33t

shoulders of the year.

varieties persist in grazing leys. Look

his top tips on selecting grass and

DM/acre/year) between the best and

clover varieties:

worst grasses. Choosing clovers not

3) Think about grass heading date

Grass and Clover List to select the

at ‘Leaf Area’ on the Recommended

on the list will also compromise pro-

If you have a range of grass heading

best varieties for your situation. For

1) Use the Recommended Grass

tein content, intakes, draught toler-

dates in your grass-seed

dual-purpose leys choose a medium

and Clover List

ance and nitrogen fixing ability.

mixtures of more than 15 days, it has

leaf size. Using a blend of medium

been proven this can bring a silage

leaf varieties is fine, provided they

Grass and Clover List, varieties

2) Ask your seed merchant what is

yield penalty of 1.2t DM/ha (0.48t

are all on the Recommended List.

have to undergo thorough testing

in your grass mix and ensure it is

DM/acre). Silage quality will also be

so you are guaranteed to be using

fit for purpose

compromised. Ideally aim for a range

5) Ask if red clover could fit in

the top varieties available. If you

Do you know what is in the mix you

of heading dates within 10 days of

Red clover can suit all systems to a

chose grass varieties not on the

get from your merchant? Are all the

each other to ensure leys are ready

greater or lesser extent and can

list, you could be losing out on a

varieties on the Recommended

for cutting around the same time. This

increase silage digestibility, yields

huge volume of dry matter over a

List? Ask to see details of what is in

will boost yield and silage quality.

and feed value. The availability of

season and also risk lower

a mix and ensure what is included


fits with your system’s require-

4) Select white clover leaf size to

red clovers means there is the

To make it onto the Recommended

new, longer lasting four to five years

ments. For example, for a spring-

match management

potential for the crop to fit into more

difference of 10% in some charac-

block calving system looking to

Large leaf white clover are of big

rotations. You will need a five-year

teristics. For example, for grazing

maximise milk from grass, you will

benefit to silage leys, but will not

break between crops.

Even within the list there is a

inoculant used on all cuts. Before first cut 60 units of N/acre is applied and 34.5 units/acre after second and third cuts. About 2,000-3,000 gallons of slurry per acre is also applied between cuts and after third cut. “We take sheep on tack over winter to graze all of the grassland. They provide an added source of income and also act as a management tool to maintain grass quality so fields are ready for cutting the following year,” says Mr Jones. Ongoing grass improvement works are proving their worth,

Red clover has been planted with the aim of increasing home-grown protein and reducing reliance on bought-in fertilisers. protein in the concentrate as a

crop acreage is reduced due to

cludes 24kg of third cut silage,

with this year’s third cut silage

result, so we’re saving on pro-

a larger proportion of grassland

11kg wholecrop barley, 10kg

analysing at 30.6% DM, 20.6%

tein. But we are also using dry

being planted with new

under sown barley, 1.5kg lupin

crude protein, 73 D value and

rolled maize to balance the


and triticale wholecrop and

11.5ME. Mr Jones says this

ration and top up the starch

high protein crop has helped

provided by the wholecrop.”

with winter ration balance. “We have been able to cut the


Buying-in more starch may be an ongoing strategy as whole-

2.5kg blend. This is topped up Current diet

with an 18% protein cake fed

The current diet (December) is

to yield in the parlour, up to 8kg

aiming for Mn+ 20-litre and in-

per head per day.


A4 Template_Template 29/01/2016 12:28 Page 1

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GT 2016 p14 15 16 Fertiliser Use_Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:18 Page 1

Fertiliser use One Midlands dairy farmer has proved a strategic Nutrient Management Plan can help save costs and boost grass growth.

Dairy farmer convinced of NMP’s worth hen milk price


ishaw was keen to see if he

put price balance as it is, it’s

extra 1,000 litres/ha or 404

falls, all farm-

could make savings by mov-

tempting to take a ‘PKS

litres/acre (£240/ha or £97/

ers are keen

ing away from compound

holiday’ and reduce costs

acre benefit at 24ppl). If re-

to cut costs

fertilisers to straight nitrogen.

by using straight nitrogen.

placement silage had to be

So we did an on-farm trial

bought-in to compensate for

ble, but Leicestershire pro-

a keen advocate of meeting

in 2015 to test the NMP

the loss in grass yield, this

ducer Richard Collishaw has

farm requirements by carefully


would bring a cost of £80/ha

proved Nutrient Management

balancing purchased fertiliser

Planning (NMP) is not the

inputs with on-farm nutrients,

Silage fields

cost of about £40/ha

place to do it.

he wanted to make sure he

Two, three-cut silage fields,

(£16/acre) from using a true

was making the right decision.

with a P and K index of 2,

granular NPKS fertiliser

were divided in halves. One

instead of straight N.

where possi-

Having worked hard to build good soil indices, Mr Coll-

However, having always been

He says: “With the input/out-

(£32/acre). This compares to a

half received 300kg/hectare or 69kg N/ha of a 23-4-13+7 SO3

good silage stocks is crucial

NPKS compound fertiliser,

considering the 186-cow Hol-

according to the NMP designed by Arthur Baldwin, of ACT. The other half just received ammonium nitrate at 200kg/ha (69kg N/ha). The fer-

year, with 75% the Forage is em of the forage r syst u o f o is component s ba just is P M N r of the diet and ou tion to from grass n e t t a e h part of t akes silage. The detail it t llishaw farm consisRichard Co tently produces

around March 10 and after first and second cut. Mr Collishaw admits he was

silage of about 11.5-12 ME and 72 D value. “Silage quality is our main criteria to support milk yield.

surprised by the difference in

We average three cuts a year

performance. “The NPKS

and aim for quality every time,

approach outstripped the

with five weeks between cuts

straight N in both fields by

to maximise energy and pro-

almost one tonne dry

tein,” he says.

matter/acre. That’s a big deal

Water Lane Farm, near

for us and the extra costs of

Melton Mowbray, covers

the fertiliser are far outweighed

121ha (300 acres). Soils are

by the benefits we get from

clay to medium loam, with

the extra grass,” he says.

specific silage and grazing

This increase in grass yield


stein herd yields 9,000 litres a cow a

tiliser was applied

Richard Collishaw (right), daughter Andrea and son-in-law Richard aim to benefit from grass growth from their Nurtient Management Plan.

Mr Collishaw says producing

ground. Some silage may

provides enough milk produc-

occasionally be taken from the

tion energy to produce an

grazing platform and cows


GT 2016 p14 15 16 Fertiliser Use_Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:19 Page 2

grazed on the silage area later

Swapping AN for urea – is it worth it?

in the season. Swapping ammonium nitrate (AN) for

acre), 200-cow herd. However, grass-

ishaw is now convinced

urea may be a tempting way to cut

land specialist and consultant for CF

data, there’s only a 33% chance of

continuing with the NMP is the

costs, but trial work suggests there is

Fertilisers UK George Fisher says if

that happening, so that’s a two-thirds

right approach in order to

a high chance you could compromise

you subsequently lose 15% of yield,

risk urea will reduce grass growth in

maximise grassland perform-

overall grass performance.

there is a significant cost associated


Moving forward, Mr Coll-

ance and subsequent silage production.

Research carried out at Reaseheath College shows a 15% reduction in dry

with replacing lost production. “If you buy-in silage, that’s a cost of

Dr Fisher adds: “Based on weather

“Some farmers may say they are in a rainy area, so they buy urea for the

matter yields across two silage cuts

about £8,500 in a 200-cow herd or

first application. That’s the right thing

and three spring grazings by using

£20,000 if you replace the lost energy

to do if weather conditions are perfect,

and testing the slurry every

urea, instead of AN. In this trial, using

with concentrate,” he says.

but as you can’t control the weather

February. Slurry testing in

protected urea also resulted in the

itself has proved extremely

same yield decrease.

This includes soil testing the whole farm every three years

Urea can perform just as well as AN,

At about 52p/kg N versus 67p/kg N

it’s a risky approach. If conditions

however conditions need to be per-

aren’t right, you will lose grass, which

fect, with a cool air temperature and

will cost you more than you save.”

receives exactly the nutrients

in AN, urea can reduce overall costs

at least 5mm of rain in the three days

■ To view a AN versus urea video,

it requires, with one year’s test

by about £2,000 on an 80ha (197-

after spring application.


helpful in ensuring grass

highlighting big variation in farm slurry quality compared to set figures in the RB209

selected. This provides low

Fertiliser Manual.

levels of P and K and added sulphur to enhance forage

Testing Mr Collishaw says: “By test-

yields and quality. Fertiliser will be applied after

ing, it highlighted our slurry

first and second cut. Slurry

was lower dry matter than the

will also be applied via umbili-

set figures, so we applied at a

cal to ground near to the farm

higher rate as a result of that.

in early March at 30m3/ha.

It was half the standard

Subject to ground conditions,

figures, so if we had stuck to

any remaining slurry will also

the set figures, we may not

be tanked to outlying ground

have applied enough.”

and targeted at the fields

Soil and slurry analysis results are also used to select

which need it. To further improve perform-

appropriate compound

ance, silage ground is also slit

fertilisers. To meet the farm’s

aerated when conditions are

requirements either ammo-

right. This is usually in March

nium nitrate or two specific

and after first and second cut.

compounds will be applied.

Mr Collishaw believes in-

This includes a 23-4-13 com-

cluding sulphur in any com-

pound plus sulphur. This high

pound fertiliser is particularly

N and potash fertiliser is ideal

important due to the reduction

for multi-cut silage leys and

in natural atmospheric sulphur

includes reduced phosphate

produced from industry. This

levels to help maintain soil P

helps optimise grass yields

and Ks.

and quality (see panel, p16).

Alternatively, a 27-4-4 compound plus sulphur will be

All in all, Mr Collishaw remains convinced


Arthur Baldwin, of ACT, measuring grass yields on the fertiliser trial.



GT 2016 p14 15 16 Fertiliser Use_Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:19 Page 3

Fertiliser use Fertiliser selection top tips Dr George Fisher, grassland

fertiliser to bridge shortfalls or

specialist and consultant for CF

save money by not having to apply

Fertilisers UK, gives his top tips

as much fertiliser. Also aim to soil

when selecting fertilisers:

sample 30% of the farm every year and have figures in front of

1) Do not be tempted to cut

you when you do your Nutrient

fertiliser inputs to save costs

Management Plan.

Replacing a compound with straight nitrogen can save money

4) Include sulphur in compound

in the short-term, but in the long-


term it will reduce dry matter

Sulphur is really important for grass

production from cheap grass

growth as it is involved in the syn-

which you will have to replace with

thesis of key amino acids which

a more expensive feed.

are the building blocks of protein.

Always use a Nutrient Manage-

Sulphur is easily leached out on

ment Plan (NMP) to meet your

medium or light soils, so should be

farm’s requirements through

included as standard in compound

slurries, farmyard manures and

fertilisers on these systems.

appropriate fertilisers.

A £12 herbage N:S test when

The 186-cow Holstein herd at Water Lane Farm yields 9,000 litres a cow a year. continuing with such a NMP is

takes to make the farm work

grass is growing at its most rapid

the right way to go to

efficiently. It seems so logical

2) Think carefully about replacing

in spring can also help highlight if

secure the long-term perform-

to feed the grass crop as you

AN with urea

sulphur is a requirement. A 20-

ance of his grassland.

would an arable crop, so you

To try and save costs, many farm-

30% increase in yield is a common

ers are considering swapping AN

response to sulphur application on

Basis of system

account for what’s taken off.

for urea, but it could be a false

deficient ground.

“Forage is the basis of our

In that way you’re maximising

system and our NMP is just

the yields and performance of

part of the attention to detail it

the grass,” he says.

economy as total season dry matter yields can be severely

5) Do not get rid of maintenance

compromised (see panel, page

phosphate dressings

15). Conditions need to be perfect

Research carried out at Rease-

for urea to perform efficiently, but

heath College shows there is a

it is also not worth delaying appli-

beneficial grass yield response

cation to suit the weather as this

from applying maintenance appli-

will again compromise yields.

cations of phosphate (80kg/ha for

give it what it needs and

three-cut silage) to maintain Index 3) Test slurries and soils Testing all manures and soils, then

2 soils. In the trial, the cost of 80kg

making up the difference with

phosphate per ha is about £45/ha

specifically selected fertilisers is

(£18/acre). The extra grass pro-

the key way to save money. There

duced was 1.24 tonnes DM/ha

can be a big difference in your

(0.5t DM/acre), which at 11.5 MJ

farm’s manure nutrient analysis

ME/kg DM, is 14,260 MJ energy.

compared to the RB209 Fertiliser

Used at a 75% utilisation rate, this

Manual figures.

would be 10,695 MJ ME, which at

By knowing your slurry’s nutrient content you can select the right


5.4 MJ/litre milk is enough for 1,980 litres.

Richard Collishaw (right) and Arthur Baldwin work together every year to get the farm’s Nutrient Management Plan right.


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GT 2016 p18 19 20 Grassland and Agronomy_Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:32 Page 1

Grassland and agronomy Farmers have much to gain from treating grass as a crop. Dairy Farmer asks environmental crop management agronomist and head of technical development for the Crest group Peter Clare how using an agronomist can help grassland productivity.

Can agronomists help you achieve your grassland’s true potential? Arable farmers

To maintain the performance

use agronomists

of a ley, grassland agronomy

as standard, but

is a continuous process. That

why does a

is where an agronomist can

grassland farmer

help as they can advise on an


need one?

Peter Clare says with the low milk price, getting more from grass is important.

appropriate, ongoing strategy.

grass from day one. If you

They also have understand-

make sure a new ley has a

tion products is also vital. By

ing of regulations and the

good, clean start, you may

getting advice on using them

most production possible in

specific herbicides available.

gain another year’s production

correctly to avoid water con-

terms of yield and quality, so it

This will be even more impor-

out of it. An agronomist can

tamination, it is safeguarding

is important to ensure it is not

tant this year, as the amount of

advise on how to do that.

their use for years to come.

infested with weeds and treat

products available to farmers

Farmers have also got to

it as you would any other crop.

has been severely diminished

keep records of what herbi-

since last spring.

cides they have applied. An

Grass is the basis of all dairy farms. You want the

You would not dream of

is also more complicated than

When you go on-farm,


what do you look at and

agronomist will have crop

what areas do you commonly

What are the main

software so it is a lot easier to

identify for improvement?

benefits farmers can get

do that.

putting a wheat crop in and walking away. Growing grass

Stewardship of crop protec-


growing a lot of arable crops,

from using an agronomist?

as you have got the crop there for a number of years. With an

I will walk the farm and

It is best practice for farmers

question the farmer on

Farmers are often

to get pesticide advice from a

their reseed policy and what

amazed at what they can

BASIS-qualified agronomist,

they use for weed control. I will

arable crop, you can start

achieve from grass – it has

as firstly It means a farmer is

then assess the level of weed

afresh every year.

huge potential. With the low

legally covered and secondly

infestation and explain getting

milk price, getting more from

they will get better value for

the weeds under control will

will deteriorate, which will

low cost grass is even more

money from what they are

be a two- to three-year

reduce productivity and

important. Farmers have

doing as they will be using the

process to get the farm in a

increase costs, as you will

absolutely got to make sure

right product at the right time,

good place as often you are

have to reseed more regularly.

they are getting the most from

at the right dose.

up against well established,

If you don’t look after grass it



GT 2016 p18 19 20 Grassland and Agronomy_Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:32 Page 2

perennial plants. They will

pastures, so it is important to

What advice do you

spring this year has been

have for farmers looking

greatly reduced. CMPP is the


require a long-term, pro-

burn off grass with glyphosate

grammed approach, so that is

before doing a reseed, other-

to control weeds in clover-

main active ingredient which

where an agronomist can help.

wise you will carry the weed

rich swards?

can no longer be used on

There is no quick fix, so pre-

problem with you.

Controlling weeds in

grassland and has been taken

clover-rich swards is

out of a lot of mixes. This

vention is always much better.

It is important to get on top

That is why getting things right

of weeds early in new leys. If

achievable, it is about select-

means a new approach will be

in new leys is so important.

you wait until spring in an

ing the right clover safe

needed on many grass farms

autumn reseed, you will

product and applying at the

and it will be important to con-

I see is soil. One of the first

reduce the life of the sward as

right dose. If a farm has docks,

sider different herbicide mixes

things I do is soil test a few

weeds such as chickweed will

amidosulfuron is the main

to get the best control possi-

fields and look for com-

have had time to establish.

active ingredient for clover

ble. This is something an

paction. Some farmers say

This will swamp the grass, so

safe control. This should be

agronomist can help with.

they struggle to get grass

you will get poor establish-

applied when the weed is

established, but until you get

ment and the gaps will fill with

actively growing in spring.

soils right (with the right level

annual meadow-grass. Spray

When weeds take up more

newly-sown leys. In estab-

of P, K and S), you will never

at the 4-5 leaf stage in spring

than 25-30% of the sward, it

lished, non-clover leys with

get grass established right.

and autumn reseeds. Control-

may be worth considering

docks and thistles, a dicamba,

That means weeds are more

ling leatherjackets and slugs

starting again and going for a

2,4-D, fluroxpyr and triclopyr

likely to invade.

in new leys is also vital.

complete reseed.

mix will work well. A dicamba,

One of the biggest problems

Farmers also tend to put up

For example, a 2,4-D and MCPA mix can be used in

2,4-D and MCPA mix will be

In a ley’s second year, you Are there different herbi-

good for thistle control, while a

cide strategies farmers

dicamba, 2,4-D mix will suit


with low levels of docks and

may also start to see docks,

see it as acceptable, but it is

thistles and nettles. It is

not. Docks can easily take up

important to control these as

can use for different weed

10% of grassland and that is

they are big yield robbers. Do

control challenges and if so

10% of potential yield lost.

not wait. Spray as soon as

what are they?

Some farmers think they

they appear as they will be

Regulations have

applied by a trained sprayer,

cannot treat docks in clover-

smaller and easier to control

changed so the number

as part of the Sustainable Use

rich leys, but they can. That is

and there will be less of them.

of sprays available for use in

docks and thistles. Also, remember from now on, pesticides can only be


where you need an agronomist to find specific clover safe sprays. Fungal disease is also a common problem which you will only see by going out and walking the grass. Fungal disease can easily result in a 10% loss in yield and a one-third reduction in starch and sugar levels, so using a fungicide on grassland is vital, when necessary. What are the key areas


for attention in new

leys? You need a clear break between old and new

With soil being one of the biggest issues he sees when on-farm, Peter Clare soil tests a few fields as a priority.



GT 2016 p18 19 20 Grassland and Agronomy_Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:28 Page 3

Grassland and agronomy Using grass growth regulators to up performance


Growth boost

most from a grass growth

season growth, allowing an

GA3 causes cell devision and


earlier silage cut to be taken

rapid elongation of cell tissue,

■ GA3 can only be applied

and increased yields through-

thus boosting grass growth.

once in spring before April

out the season.

In the UK, there are two main


ways to benefit from applying

■ Apply at a rate of 20g/ha.

these growth regulators to

■ Because it is an acid, it is

rass growth regu-

rather than animals and UK

of ME/ha and 55% higher kg

lators could

farmers can learn from this

of crude protein/ha.

provide farmers

concept of ‘grassmanship’.”

Mr Dyason offers the

with an added boost of early

Nufarm technical manager for the UK and Ireland Richard Dyason believes applying the naturallyoccurring plant hormone GA3 (gibberellic acid) to grass

following tips on getting the

grass in spring:

ssional For profe stay ers to dairy farm ss, they in busine ximise a need to m wth grass gro ason Richard Dy

in spring could bring big benefits to dairy farmers. He says: “Plant growth reg-

best sprayed on its own, to

■ Cut at the

avoid any interaction with Richard Dyason

other products.

get higher first

11. The early cut field pro-

■ Apply at the start of spring

cut yields, or

duced 2.79 tonnes dry mat-


■ Cut earlier

ter/hectare (1.1t DM/acre)

■ The benefits will not be

and get less

more across three silage cuts

seen if the grass is actively

first cut than

taken through the season.

growing and healthy, so

normal, but more

The farmer took his second

ensure soils are tested and

total grass production

cut on July 6 and August 15

any deficiencies addressed.

across second and third cuts.

and the other fields were cut

■ They are not a substitute

on June 22 and August 13.

for fertilisers, so make sure

same time and

In one UK farm trial, GA3 was applied to grassland on

A separate trial also showed

you have a good nutrient

ulators are widely used in

March 28. One field was then

this added grass growth did

New Zealand where grass is

cut at the farmer’s usual cut-

not come at the expense of

grown as a crop. In New

ting time on May 25. The

grass quality, with treated


Zealand they farm their grass,

other was cut earlier on May

grass having 46% higher kg

Mr Dyason says it is also

management plan in place.

likely these types of growth regulators could benefit grazing systems. Applied in the same way, they could allow an early grazing and rapid recovery after grazing. Overall, he believes farmers with healthy, quality grassland could benefit from incorporating grass regulators into their grass management plan. “For professional dairy farmers to stay in business, they need to maximise grass growth and this is a way to maximise performance and Nufarm’s Richard Dyason says plant growth regulators are widely used in NZ where grass is grown as a crop.



reduce costs,” he says.

A4 Template_Template 27/01/2016 12:32 Page 1

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GT 2016 p22 23 24 Utilising grass_Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:25 Page 1

Utilising grass (silage) When it comes to making the highest quality grass silage possible, it all comes down to forward planning, good timing and motivation, according to one award-winning Cheshire dairy farmer.

Motivation key to quality grass silage


he 16 silage awards pinned up around Adrian Smith’s office at Brook House Farm,

Bostock, Cheshire, speak volumes as to the importance he places on producing quality grass silage. A closer look at the first cut grass silage analysis sheet from 2015 shows exactly why he is top of the pile; a D value of 75.8, crude protein of 20% and 12.1ME. Add to that average milk yield figures of 8,600 litres a cow a year with more

than 5,000 litres from forage, and the picture is even more impressive.

When it comes to silage-making, Adrian Smith says the aim is to cut young, leafy grass, but at higher dry matter. It is more sustainable as

The 200-cow herd calves all-

“Our number one breeding

cows are healthier and it’s

year-round and is grazed in

aim is for capacity to con-

getting cows to milk from

certainly more profitable. We

summer. The aim is to

sume large amounts of

everything we can produce at

have lower vet costs, higher

maximise grass intakes

forage. For many years we

home. We only buy liquid feed

cow longevity and a lower

throughout the year, either

have been breeding and

and parlour cake, the rest is

carbon footprint.”

from grazing, conserved

training cows to eat silage,”

silage or zero-grazed grass

Mr Smith says.

Mr Smith says: “It’s about

grown on-farm.

m factsize r a F e s u o H k Broo rass, 28ha (70 acres) mae silage

(see post-it, left).

age, with the emphasis

g maiz 00 acres) buffer-fed p121ha (3 mmer and u s r on floor e in d d a lo ze h cut for pCows gra r – ration mixed wit t or grass u c d ir e d th e le ossib pNo diet fe ken and p ge cuts ta er when pTwo sila er in summ ff u b g e n iz zi a zero gra added to m zed grass ser pZero-gra ps ificial fertili growth dro rst cut. Art fi s s re ra fo g e d d b te rge graze applied fertiliser ta of nitrogen t cut, with n e u p95 units q e s b u er each s quirements applied aft ual field re id iv d in to ge cuts ges and according etween sila stone bags along ed b s k e e w s p4.5-six t used, plu ilage shee ng platform pDouble s ff the grazi f clamp o o n e p e k to ta n o e , 18% crud will b tyres 61.4% DM ilage bales s e l g a ra n e io v it a d e pAd ol. Thes gement to as a mana e, 11ME lu a .6% D v 9 6 , in te ro p


Training starts from a young


placed on getting calves to

Grass silage in particular has

consume large amounts of

a ‘huge role’ in the winter

hay and haylage prior to

ration, making up 75% of the

weaning. Specific fields are

forage component. Cows

planted with tetraploids to

receive 28kg grass silage,

create a palatable hay with

15kg maize silage, 1kg of

good scratch factor, specifi-

protein-rich molasses and up

cally for youngstock.

to 8kg of concentrate a day

The farm totals 150 hectares

through the parlour. In the

(370 acres), with silage taken

winter, the herd achieves

from dedicated silage ground

average dry matter intakes of

of about 49ha (120 acres).

25kg a head, 17kg of which is

When it comes to silage-mak-

from forage.

ing, Mr Smith says the aim is


GT 2016 p22 23 24 Utilising grass_Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:25 Page 2

to cut young, leafy grass, but at

controlled from November to

higher dry matter so as to cre-

spring to prevent soil contami-

ate a more rumen-friendly feed

nation risk at harvest.

– 2015’s first cut was 43% dry

Mr Smith adds: “We slit aerate in autumn and spring and if

matter. He says: “We cut dry as you

we need to go on ground after

can’t make a 20% protein

a cut, we will go on again. It

silage at lower dry matter as

helps get a uniform crop, as

the acid load would be too

you can’t have poached areas


on the headlands otherwise it gets wet. It’s about looking after the soil structure.”

Motivated team Mr Smith believes his highly

Fields are also selected for a

motivated, young team are key

reseed based on their perform-

to achieving the highest quality

ance, with leys generally lasting

feed possible and is one of the

five years. Silage fields undergo

reasons the farm has won the

a complete reseed using inter-

Cheshire Grassland Society’s

mediate tetraploids, without

Grassland Competition four


years in a row. Timeli-

planning is also ranked highly. “It’s all about the basics. We take first cut

“Reseeding is phenomenally impor-

ness of cutting and forward

Grass silage, in particular, has a ‘huge role’ in the 200-cow herd’s winter ration.

t It’s abou ilk ws to m o c g n i t t e ge ything w r e v e m o fr uce at can prod home ith Adrian Sm

around the end of April/May and my preparation

tant to get quality silage. New grass leys consistently out-perform older leys, with first

cut averaging

6t/acre and second cut the same,” says Mr Smith.

The farm’s milkers average yield figures of 8,600 litres a cow per year.

starts in August. We make sure

At harvest, close attention is

trees are pared back, fields are

paid to ensuring grass is cut at

weed-free and gateways are

exactly the right time. Grass is

managed, so we don’t get pud-

cut in the late-afternoon to

dles which could contaminate

allow sugars to build and a

silage,” he says.

7-10cm (3-4in) stubble is left to

Most years, all of the farm is

avoid potential soil contamina-

also soil tested in August, so

tion. Mr Smith rides around on

any imbalances can be

the quad bike to monitor

addressed. Work on a specific

exactly when fields need

area of old arable land is also

rowing up, with wilt times

ongoing to improve organic

varying from two to 12 hours

matter and P and Ks, largely

depending on weather.

through slurry application. Lime

“Our grass is short and leafy

is also applied at 0.5-one

so it can quickly dry out, so

tonnes/acre when necessary to

you need to be on top of the

maintain soil pH. Moles are

wilt. It’s very easy to miss it,”


Silage is taken from dedicated silage ground of around 49ha (120 acres).



GT 2016 p22 23 24 Utilising grass_Layout 1 29/01/2016 10:26 Page 3

Utilising grass (silage) says Mr Smith, who also believes a good relationship with the contractor pays dividends. A short chop is used to enable effective consolidation of the dry crop and a silage inoculant is applied on all cuts. Three years ago, Mr Smith decided to evaluate whether using an inoculant was worthwhile by comparing silage performance with a neighbour with a similar system who decided not to use an inoculant that year. The results proved he was right to stick with it. “It showed it paid me to put

Old cubicle mats and tyres are used to cover a maize silage clamp at Brook House Farm, Bostock, Cheshire. on grass silage placing them

Last year he also experi-

need to find a way to keep it in

top of the rankings on farm

mented with using a forage box

an additive on. It held the crude

benchmarking results for milk

with the view to creating a more

protein and sugars higher in the

from forage, Mr Smith is still

rumen-friendly first cut silage.

silage, as the bugs helped

highly motivated to continuously

ferment the silage without

improve performance. Next on

Ideal diet

will mean they can grow a

using the sugars in the grass,”

the list is creating greater unifor-

“A cow’s ideal diet is 18% pro-

‘potent first cut’ and then

he says.

mity in grass heading dates

tein and we can grow a 20%

possibly blend this with a more

across the farm.

protein grass silage, but we

fibrous second cut.

Despite the farm’s emphasis

the rumen for longer,” he adds. By not chopping this high quality crop, the length will hopefully aid rumen health. This

Silage making top tips Volac’s business manager Peter

Deal with mole hills and ruts in the

peat if necessary. Avoid leaving grass

on top during filling helps com-

Smith gives his top tips on making

field early in spring.

out for more than one night.

paction at the edges, but finish with

2) Timing is crucial

4) Use an appropriate chop length

1) Keep the crop clean

Cut young, leafy grass and take

Normally aim for about 25mm. If

plastic wrap and black plastic

Soil and slurry are full of undesir-

advantage of good weather when

the DM is under 25% DM, increase

sheets with a good overlap and as

able bacteria which can spoil the

you have it. It’s worth going a little

the chop length to reduce effluent

much weight as possible on top,

silage fermentation, in particular

earlier if the weather is good; you

and clamp slippage. For bulky, dry

especially around the edges.

enterobacteria and clostridia, the

might get a lighter first cut but

silages, chop shorter to aid com-

latter being responsible for poor

faster regrowth means over the

paction in the clamp.

nutritional value butyric acid silages

season you will get better quality

with high DM losses and low

and similar overall yields.

a dome to ensure a tight top sheet.

quality grass silage:

Seal the clamp well using a thin

6) Use a silage inoculant A good inoculant can improve silage

5) Focus on clamp consolidation

quality and reduce losses. Inoculants

and sheeting

applying higher numbers of bacteria

3) Aim for a rapid wilt

Use side sheets. Level fill the

are more likely to ensure rapid

grassland less than 10 weeks prior

The faster the crop dries, the more en-

clamp, rather than doing a ‘Dorset

domination of the fermentation and

to cutting; if injecting you can apply

ergy and digestibility is preserved. Aim

Wedge’ and aim for layers of 10-

inhibition of spoilage organisms.

three to four weeks before. Min-

for about 30% DM in 24 hours (max

15cm (4-6in). This will create a

Some inoculants can also improve

imise soil contamination by cutting

36 hours). Cut in the morning after any

more uniform winter feed. Roll con-

animal performance, key to profitabil-

at 5-7cm (2-3in) and setting ted-

dew has dried and spread grass wide.

tinuously, unless very wet, ideally

ity. When choosing, always ask for in-

ders and rakes at the right height.

Ted after three to four hours and re-

with two machines. A saucer shape

dependent proof of any claims made.

intakes. So avoid spreading muck on



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