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Grassland Toolkit

February 2015

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

How to assess fields to boost output


Reseeding and variety options


Guide to tailored fertiliser selection


Tips for making and using silage


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Welcome e to d i u g l a i t n e s s e ‘Your management’ grassland


elcome to the Grassland Toolkit, a unique guide which aims to provide you with key tools and information you will need to evaluate and,

where necessary, take steps to improve your grassland productivity. Maximising grassland production is one of the most straight-forward ways to lower feed costs. However, getting the most out of grass means affording it the same care and attention you would any other crop. This may seem obvious, but how many dairy farmers routinely consider best practice at every stage of grassland


management? As well as in-depth technical articles outlining best practice and offering decision-making advice, the handy checklist at the back of this Toolkit will help ensure you have made the most of opportunities at all stages of your production cycle.

p ss as a cro ra g g n ti a re T sess fields How to as ction Variety sele sting and soil te e s u r e is il Fert ies trol strateg Weed con ation grass utilis g in is im x Ma it checklist lk o o T d n Grassla

4-5 6-9 10-12 14-16 17-18 20-22 24

A Dairy Farmer publication in association with:



GT p4 5 Intro VR EP_Layout 1 28/01/2015 12:36 Page 1



Safeguard dairy farms to secure profitability


aking the time to

Table 1: Effect of milk from forage on margins

identify ways to maximise production from

Top 20% by milk from forage

Promar Milkminder average

193 7,608 3,005

182 8,074 2,209

-466 796




0.29 7.28 25.96 1,975

0.33 8.58 24.75 1,998

-13% -13% 5% -1%

Cows in herd Yield per cow (litres) Milk from forage per cow (litres) % of total production from forage Concentrate use (kg/litre) Purchased feed cost (ppl) Margin (ppl) Margin per cow (£)

grazed grass or

silage could make the difference between profit and loss during periods of increasing market volatility. The green stuff, in particular grazed grass, remains one of the cheapest feeds available


Source: 500 herds from Promar MilkMinder’s rolling 12-month figures (August 2013/14)

to farmers, and as such, has a vital role to play in helping drive down costs (see graphs

Top 20% of producers

compared to an average of

pGetting a better margin per

1 and 2).



litre and a similar margin per

pGetting 800 more litres

pFeeding 13% less

cow despite 470 fewer litres

Andrew Hawkins says

from forage

pAchieving a feed cost per

pBetter insulated from

because feed represents the

pAchieving 40% of

litre of £13 less (similar

price fluctuations for both

single highest variable cost

production from forage


milk and feed

Promar senior consultant

on-farm, anything which can be done to achieve more from forage will have a significant

produced more milk from

feed costs and milk from

17p/cow/day more to feed a

impact on profitability.

forage were also shown to have

forage performance.

27% DM silage at 10.8ME,

a higher margin per litre. Purchased feed costs

He says: “It costs about

versus a 25% DM silage at

In order to hit targets,

“Data shows farmers who

producing high quality grass

produce more milk from

and silage is crucial. However,

forage have lower purchased

first cut silage analysis results

feed costs per litre and for

from the last two years show

every 1ppl decrease in feed

there is big scope for

costs, there is a 1ppl increase

producers to boost silage

in gross margin,” he says (see

quality through careful

table 1 and graph 3).

management (see table 2).

Graph 1: Feed costs

Those farms which

ures g i f n i s g Findin grazed grass hads aa

an ged /tonne -mana of £88 pWell t s o c tion produc 197/t f£ o e se in y valu ingsha a) - the inrea K : e c r Sou 1t/ha 170/h /ha (€ ved for each p£135 ie h rgin ac isation net ma ass util r g in se increa sc : Teaga c r u So e

Silage quality Kingshay senior technical specialist Source: Kingshay forage costs report 2013

Tom Bell explains the difference

pGrazed grass and silage

cheapest and, in particular,

remain the cheapest feeds in

clover-rich swards


comparison to bought-in

pLow yielding crops are

quality silage


expensive, no matter what

can make all

pGrazed forages are the

crops you grow

between a good and

the difference to



GT p4 5 Intro VR EP_Layout 1 28/01/2015 12:36 Page 2

Graph 2: Increased forage use can reduce costs Feed costs explained a

producers across all systems.

minimum of 60% of the

The graph shows the more

difference in cost of

milk produced from forage,

production between the

the lower the feed and forage

top and bottom 25% of


Graph 3: The lower the feed costs per litre, the higher the gross margin

Source: Promar FBA 2013/14

per cent, costs will escalate to 5.5ppl. “This shows grazed grass is only cheap if you use it,” says Source: DairyCo MilkBench+ report 2012/13

Mr Bell. “All farmers should plan

Findings in figu


p31% the outp ut retain on farm ed as m s with a argin fo cus on g Source: ra Welsh G rass Valu zing p4% e Projec the ave t rage ou margin tp u t for herd retained s as Source: DairyCo MilkBen ch+ in 2 013

11.2ME. This is due to the

maintaining grass quality,

ahead to

need for greater concentrate

keeping costs of production


supplementation and the

down and maximising milk

management is in place

higher cost per tonne of

from forage.

to utilise 84% of grazed grass produced. The key is to

conserved, all dairy farms

Perennial rye-grass

measure it so you can

have the potential to make

For example, utilising 84% of

manage it.”

more from grass by treating it

utilised dry matter of the poorer quality silage.” This will add an extra £765

Mr Hawkins agrees forward

as a crop. The key is to

in costs/month to a 150-cow

13t DM/ha produced on a

herd. When it comes to

high perennial rye-grass

planning is crucial to

identify where you can make

grazed grass, effective

sward will cost 3.1ppl.

maximise returns from grass.

improvements on your farm

utilisation is fundamental in

However, if you only use 50

“Whether grazed or

and set achievable targets.”

Table 2: Average silage figures

Graph 4: Effect of grass utilisation on production costs

First cut 2014 (3,519 samples)

Min Dry matter 14.3 Crude 5.5 protein D value 58 ME 9.3 pH 3.4 NH3N 0.4 Sugars 0.2 NDF 33.7 ADF 22.1 Source: Welsh Grass Value Project


First cut 2013 (9,550 samples)

Ave 28.6 13.1

Max 77.7 25

Min 13.8 5

Ave 32.6 13.6

Max 88.2 23.3

65.4 10.5 3.9 2.8 3 50 31.7

75.8 12.1 6 77.6 10 69.3 46.5

58 9.3 3.4 0.5 0.1 25.9 18.6

68 10.9 4 2.4 3.7 46.9 31.1

75.9 12.1 6.2 31.7 10.2 78.9 48.2

Source: Trouw Nutrition GB


GT p6 8 9 Assess fields VR EP_Layout 1 28/01/2015 12:45 Page 1

How to assess fields Before you can make any improvements to grassland performance, the key is to assess what you have on-farm and identify areas for attention.

Benchmark to allow targeted improvements egularly monitoring


doing a separate soil test if

grassland perform-

there is a particular area of a

ance as you do bulk

field which is not performing

somatic cell count

well. When basic results are

or fertility is the only

satisfactory, but fields are still

way to know where you are at

under performing, consider

so you can address problems

using an in-depth soil test for

and boost productivity.

macro and micro-nutrients.

Whether it is soil analysis results or how much grass is

Soil signals

being grown and utilised on a


field-by-field basis, the key is to

Dig a couple of holes down to

record and benchmark year on

38-45cm (15-18in) in each field

year to allow targeted improve-

where grass looks good and


bad so you can compare and

The following four areas

Soils should be one of the first areas to look at when assessing grassland.

assess physical soil health.

should form part of any grass-

particularly the availability of

inches,” says Ms Mathieu. “The

Firstly, look for signs of com-

land assessment checklist:

phosphorus which is critical for

best time to do it as at the end

paction. Compaction will affect

root development in the spring.

of the season in late autumn

the flow of nutrients, air and

Soil test

It will also significantly affect the

before slurry goes on.”

water through the soil frame-

Soils form the foundation to

ability to grow clover.”

getting the most from grass

Take samples from the main

work. Non-compacted soils

Grassland with low pH and

cropping area to give a repre-

hold at least three times more

and should be one of the first

poor nutrient status is likely to

sentation of the field and avoid

water and grow 30% more

areas to look at when assessing

be much lower yielding. Ideally

getting too close to the head-

grass than compacted ones.

grassland, says Helen Mathieu

soils should have a pH of 6-6.5.

land. It may also be worth

of Germinal.

Dairy farmers should aim to

“The first question to ask is

“Compaction down to four to

sample the whole farm at least

have you got up to date soil

every three years using a basic

test results?” she says. “Soil pH

soil test for pH, phosphorous

dictates nutrient availability and

(P), potassium (K) and magnesium

Top tips

(Mg). “Walk in a W

across a field r: on) er Aim fo e seas nd cov th u r o r e s g v and take 10-20 ras t (o p75% l rye-g conten clover erennia p s % d 0 % samples a e 3 0 e p fw of 5 r imum roadlea result in poo b in m % 0 A 1 p ill field using a of K low P w pment, low ximum lo pA ma indices of 2 – e d v n e a d soil corer or t ients r roo dK pP an nd poo nd use of nutr a t n ie trowel ta nutr anspor use of lling poor tr e e m s s u y a down to alth will c tion, he rowth of soil enetra ll p fu t o e a maxipoor g o d r l pa vertica s per s pGood 5 earthworm mum 0-1 soils, 1 of six


For compaction at 10-15cm (4-6in) consider sward lifting or using a sub-soiler and use a mole plough or sub-soiler to address plough pans.


Grow How WP_Grow How WP 28/01/2015 13:52 Page 1

GT p6 8 9 Assess fields VR EP_Layout 1 28/01/2015 12:46 Page 2

How to assess fields five inches is likely to have been caused by livestock as a result of poaching or overstocking. If it goes down to about 10-12 inches, machinery is likely to be the cause. A plough pan may be even deeper,” explains Ms Mathieu. Depending on compaction levels, groundwork may be worth considering to restore performance. For surface capping down to 10cm (4in), slit aeration may be an option. For compaction at 10-15cm (4-6in) consider sward lifting or using a sub-soiler and use a mole

Perennial rye-grasses have red colouration at the base of the stem and shiny underside of the leaf – weed grasses do not.

plough or sub-soiler to address

Earthworms are vital for nutrient

the red stem test. Perennial

field, says Ms Mathieu. This will

plough pans.

cycling and their presence is a

rye-grasses have a red

help assess if you are managing

good indicator of soil health.

colouration at the base of the

grass effectively and if reseed-

stem and shiny underside of

ing or rejuvenation are needed.

When digging a hole, also assess soil smell and colour.

Assess for signs of pests such

Rusting indicates water has

as leatherjackets or wire worm

the leaf – weed grasses do not

been sitting in soils (see picture,

which could be compromising

(see picture, above).

above), while a pale grey colour


“The key is to monitor and compare performance to the

Target 75% ground cover

previous year. Record number

with a minimum of 50% rye-

of grazing days, turnout date,

Ideally, top soils should be a

Proportion of sown species

grass and an average clover

stocking rate or number of trail-

dark colour and soils should be

Look at the percentage of sown

content of 30% through the

ers coming off at silage time.”

well drained and fresh smelling.

grass species across the whole

season. Any less and reseed-

farm. A breakdown in propor-

ing or sward rejuvenation

grass will cause sward deterio-

pOrganic matter and rooting

tions could be due to soil imbal-

should be considered (see

ration. A lot of dead material

Look at organic matter, rooting

ance, compaction or poaching.

pages 10-13).

in the base of the sward is an

depth and structure. Ideally all

For example high levels of

roots should be travelling verti-

meadow-grass or creeping bent

agronomy leader from Dow

cally with a penetration of

tend to be a sign of compaction.

AgroSciences, also suggests

average covers. These should

assessing the proportion of

be maintained at 10-12cm

weeds in the sward by

(4-5in) on rotational grazing sys-

counting docks or thistles in a

tems, no more than 9-10cm

seven-metre by five-metre

(3.5in) on set stocked systems

A simple way to evalu-

(23ft by 16ft) area. This is your

and down to residuals of 3.5-

ate the proportion of

weed infestation percentage

4cm (1.3-1.5in) for rotational.

perennial rye-grass

and will determine herbicide

is consistent with poaching.

30cm (12in) or more. You should also see about

A reduction in rye-grass will reduce overall grass yields and


10-15 earthworms/m .

arch e s e r r e Furth land

grass farm’s r u l’s Field o y itor ermina G g pMon in s ance u perform nt Form the me g, use Assess eseedin cket book r n o s p o s pFor ti of gras eding P d Rese out the value n la s s a Gr m re ab ent far out mo ssessm ing your a pFind d r a e sw ssess pUse th a guide for a s a bulletin nd grassla


Andy Bailey, grassland

increase costs per kilo of dry matter produced.

in the sward is to

treatment strategy (see p17-18).

pull up grass

Both under- or over-use of

indication of under-use. Use a sward stick to monitor

“If your management is good and soils are healthy, you can maintain higher percentages of

Record and compare

perennial rye-grass for longer

places in a field

Whether you are producing

and the reason to reseed then

at the same

grass for grazing or silage, it is

becomes to improve genetics,

important to know how much is

rather than address problem,”

being grown and utilised in each

says Ms Mathieu.

from several

time as you soil test and carry out


GT p6 8 9 Assess fields VR EP_Layout 1 28/01/2015 12:46 Page 3

Case study


Grassland assessment helps decision-making


ancashire dairy

but grass silage makes up 40%

producing the right type of

farmer Chris Bargh

of the diet and we don’t do

silage is crucial.

decided to undertake

enough to make it better,” he

a complete grassland


assessment pro-

The herd is milked through ro-

Assessments are ongoing, with each field being soil tested

“Silage need to be fibrous

and assessed for percentage

with good structure and good

ground cover, clover content,

feed value. We take two cuts a

compaction and grass species.

gramme with the view to

bots and is allowed out to grass

year and aim for 35% dry

Mr Bargh also monitored and

maximising performance from

in summer, although this is

matter,” says Mr Bargh.

wrote down the number of

grass silage.

mostly treated as loafing area.

With the Osbar herd of 180

silage loads coming off each

As a result, emphasis is more


pedigree Holstein Friesians

on producing conserved forage

To improve grassland perform-

yielding 11,000 litres and re-

with 65 hectares (160 acres) of

ance and meet the farm’s

a spreadsheet so performance

ceiving a simple diet of grass

first cut taken every year.

specific requirements, Mr

can be tracked and targeted re-

Bargh has started working to

seeding decisions made. The

formulate an action plan.

farm is also planning to slit aer-

silage and concentrates, Mr

Milkers receive about 12.47kg

field. This information will be put on

Bargh decided greater empha-

DM of concentrate a head a

sis needed to be placed on

day, plus 8kg DM grass silage


and are fed concentrate

few different things [mixes] and

cally following assessments.

“We record everything, from

“Over the years we’ve tried a

ate and subsoil more strategi-

through the robot and out of

lost our way a bit which means

And grass cages are going to

how many litres a cow pro-

parlour feeders. The simplicity

we’ve got a patchwork of

be used to assess the effect

duces every milking down to

of the diet and need to produce

different grasses,” explains

winter sheep grazing has on

the amount of concentrate fed,

such high yields means

Mr Bargh.

spring regrowths.

Chris Bargh runs the Osbar herd of 180 Holstein Friesians and now records everything so performance can be tracked and targeted re-seeding decisions made.



GT p10 13 Varieties VR EP_Layout 1 28/01/2015 12:52 Page 1

Variety selection Reseeding is a vital tool in boosting grassland performance, but first and foremost producers should ask themselves what they are trying to achieve and select the right varieties.

Selection key to performance


he benefits of re-

any ley, Ms Mathieu says it is

seeding are signifi-

important to choose varieties

cant, with

from the NIAB Recommended

producers likely to

Grass and Clover List. “For example, there’s a

see a 1ppl benefit in

year one at a milk price of

difference of 1.5t DM/ha

26ppl thanks to improved

between the top and bottom

grass yields and quality, and

performing varieties on the

higher milk from grass.

Recommended list so it pays to consult the list,”

Addressing declining peren-

she explains.

nial rye-grass (PRG) levels in

Choosing the best varieties

older leys can also improve

rather than the average vari-

input efficiencies with the niWhen there is less than 30% perennial rye-grass in the sward, a complete reseed is necessary, according to Helen Mathieu of Germinal.

eties on the list will also bring

rye-grasses than weed

be carried out to see whether

may be a cheaper option

per hectare (see table, p12).

grasses. Costs for every kilo of

rejuvenation or a complete re-

that also takes ground out of

dry matter produced will also

seed is needed.

production for less time.”

sward with 50% PRG to 5p/kg

Reseed or rejuvenation?

new varieties in can help

going to use it for and select

DM on a sward with 75%

“If you have less than 30%

boost overall bulk production.

varieties to meet requirements


perennial rye-grass in the

This may also allow other less

(see table, p12).

sward then a complete reseed

well performing fields to be

Heading date is one of the

says dairy producers should

is necessary,” she says. “If

taken out of production the

most important considerations

be aiming to renew 10-15% of

you have 50% rye-grass, sur-

following year for a complete

when selecting grass. To

leys each year. However sward

face renovation

reseed. Brassicas can also act

achieve high sward stability,

as a useful break crop before

the key is to avoid too great a

a reseed and reduce the time

range in heading dates in mix-

fields are out of production.

tures. Performance will also

Whatever the strategy, Ms

be directly linked to heading

trogen response likely to be five times higher in modern

Rejuvenation by scratching

drop from 7.5p/kg DM on a

Helen Mathieu of Germinal

assessments will need to

ss mixe:s a r g g in t c e l e S select from

grasses to a range of re a re e h T roducing tent and p ses is rs e p – ) Rye-gras (PRG l rye-grass ys pPerennia D-value le h PRG, but ig h g and lding than ie y r e h ig high yieldin h G) e-grass (IR alue pItalian ry d lower D-v n mbine the a y c n te is rs d PRG. Co e n a G IR n poorer p e etwe lds and - a cross b and the yie G R P f o pHybrids y alit sity and qu sward den G IR bit of t growth ha s ved first cu or diploid id abit, impro lo h g in w Tetrap ro ht g ids - Uprig pTetraplo e ed grazing lu D-va rd, improv a w s r yields and e s n de - produce pDiploids e lu a D-v yields and


big potential financial benefits Producers should ask themselves how long they want the ley to last and what they are

Mathieu emphasises soil

date. The optimum heading

conditions must to be right

date range for high perform-

before undertaking any

ance is five to 15 days in

improvement work.

grazing swards and five to 10 days in silage leys.

How to select mixes?

Whatever your aim, D value

Once you have decided on a

is also critical. One unit of D

strategy, the next step is to

value can be worth 0.25 to

ensure the right grass and

0.28 litres so it is well worth

clover mixes are selected to

maximising D value in any

meet requirements. To achieve

mixes selected.

the best performance from


Ms Mathieu also advises

Germinal WP_Germinal WP 28/01/2015 13:59 Page 1

Performing better. Delivering more. _ 6% increase in milk yield _ 2kg/cow/day higher dry matter intakes _ 3% improvement in diet digestibility _ 24% reduction in feed nitrogen lost in urine

AberÂŽ and AberÂŽ High Sugar Grass are Registered Trademarks of Germinal Holdings Ltd

For further information please contact our technical sales representatives.

GT p10 13 Varieties VR EP_Layout 1 28/01/2015 12:53 Page 2

Variety selection Key considerations when selecting grass mixes Selection will be influenced by management and longevity of the sward. Management

Grass selection

White clover selection

Grazing – long-term duration

pUse intermediate and late heading perennial rye-grasses (PRG) - this will help achieve good growth at the shoulders of the year and mid-season pSelect a high percentage of diploid varieties for improved ground cover to protect against poaching and improve grazing yield and quality pUse intermediates and later heading PRG pChoose a blend of 30% tetraploids and 70% diploids to combine the higher first cut yields of tetraploids with the mid and late season grazing quality and D value of diploids pUse hybrids (PRG x IRG) in a third of the mix for bulk and mix of intermediate diploids and tetraploids to combine cutting yield and ground cover pUse intermediate and late heading PRG, 70% tetraploids for cutting yield and quality, 30% diploid for added persistency and ground cover

pUse a blend of medium and smaller leaved clovers that will tolerate grazing

Dual-purpose (grazing and silaging) – long-term duration

Silaging – medium-term, three to four years

Silaging – long-term, four years +

pUse a blend of medium and larger leaf sized clovers to give better yields but withstand management

pOption to use larger leaved white clover blend or a red clover

pUse only larger leaved white clovers or new improved persistent red clovers

NB: As a guide, inclusion rate of white clover should be 2.57kg/ha (1kg/acre) and red clover 7.4kg/ha (3kg/acre). thinking about the following:

the mix to spread risk. If leaf

pThink about how you are

pBe aware of how you are

size is too small and you cut

going to introduce clover – a

going to manage swards – if

low, clover can become

lack of clover safe herbicides

you are going to graze sheep

dominant and a problem.

means it may be worth

over the winter, short-term,

pGet your mix formulation right

introducing clover after a

hybrid mixes will not persist

– opting for bulk over

reseed is established.

under intensive grazing.

persistency may work in the first

pRed clover should also be

pGet the clover blend right –

year but will be overtaken by

considered. This can be

you need a balance of leaf

wild species late.

grown on its own or as a

sizes in

pDo not be

complementary forage within

tempted to buy

a three to five-year silage

varieties not

ley. This can provide a

on the

high protein feed,


provide free N back into

List – buying

the soil and boost

cheap is a false

yields. It is important


to match red clover


to the lifespan of the

select for

grass. New five-


year varieties


mean red clover

to disease

could fit in with more

sources e r r e h t r Fu

ing the com to: r you us erminal. fo t .g h w g w ri is Go to w seeding out if re r to la u pWork alc aximum g cost c res for m on grass tu ix m reseedin g e tin for advic e Selec pUse th e Farm Bulletin anc perform bulletin n o seeding ti c re nd d n sele la ss Grass a the Gra mended m o c pRead e R out the pCheck ist Clover L

such as crown rust.


standard rotations.


Helen Mathieu

Top Tips

Before sele cting mixe s: pAsk yours elf what yo u want to u ley for se the pThink stra tegically ab out crop ro and longevi tations ty pCan you put clover into the ley? pIf silaging If so how? - how man y times are to cut? you going

Lamma X WP_Lamma X WP 28/01/2015 13:37 Page 1

GT p14 15 Fertiliser Use VR EP_Layout 1 28/01/2015 12:57 Page 1

Fertiliser use Adopting a tailored nutrient management plan which takes into account all of the nutrients on-farm can help optimise grassland production and milk from forage.

How to optimise grass production


eveloping a farm-specific nutrient plan which enables targeted applica-

tion of fertilisers and slurry could help dairy producers boost grassland performance and reduce costs.

spent Every £1 ults ally res on N typic roducing dp in a swar f energy o £5-worth tein and pro beater Ross Lead

Ross Leadbeater from

Potassium (K): Target

decreased markedly since the

index of 2

reduction in sulphur emissions

pK is needed for nitrogen use

from UK industry.

efficiency and moisture

Statistics suggest just 7% of

regulation. However, it is hard to

UK grassland is receiving sul-

build in soils and can easily be

phur in fertiliser, but those 7%

diminished, particularly when

are benefiting from:

silage cuts are being taken. This

■ Up to 30% yield benefit.

means more than 40% of farms

■ Up to 5% increase in sug-

are below optimum for K (NRM).


GrowHow believes there is sig-

producing £5-worth of energy

Failure to address K supply can

■ Up to 10% increase in true

nificant scope for farmers to

and protein. However, soil sam-

result in severe grass yield

protein content.

save money by assessing the

ple results from across the UK


nutrient status of soils, FYM and

suggest many soils are falling

slurry and matching compound

short of key nutrient targets

Magnesium (Mg): Target

in their compound fertiliser on

fertilisers accordingly.

which could be compromising

index 2

grazing or cutting leys.

overall sward performance, as

pMagnesium is important for

well as effective nitrogen use.

cow health and grass

key soil nutrients demon-

“If you are not targeting compound fertilisers, you could be missing out on grassland yield

This indicates all farms would benefit from including sulphur

The variability in all of these

palatability. Generally soil Mg

strates the importance of es-

potential by under providing nu-

Soil pH: Target pH 6-6.5

levels have increased in recent

tablishing soil nutrient status

trients or wasting money and

pTests suggest 54% of

years because of slurry

on individual farms and adopt-

creating environmental risk by

grassland is under pH 6, at

applications, with 60% of

ing a specific nutrient manage-

providing unnecessary nutri-

which point nutrient uptake is

grassland above optimum.

ment plan, explains Mr

ents,” he says.

being compromised. This has


cost implications linked to

Sulphur (S)

nitrogen (N) on grassland is sig-

applied nutrients and will also

pSulphur is required by the

shows 60% of all livestock

nificant, with every £1 spent on

reduce grass yields. For

plant for protein production;

producers have some kind of

N typically resulting in a sward

example, a soil at pH 5.5

however, soil levels have

nutrient plan, suggesting

The potential return from using

“The Farm Practice Survey

rather than 6 to 6.5 can reduce yields by as much as 30%

Graph: Soil pH and grass/clover growth

(see graph, right). Phosphorus (P): Target P index 2 pP is essential for rooting and energy transfer; however, it is easy to build in soils. NRM data suggests 40% of UK grassland is above optimum for P which means there is room to reduce P inputs in compound fertilisers Ross Leadbeater


on these farms.


Source: Hopkins et al (1990), Grass and Forage Science

GT p14 15 Fertiliser Use VR EP_Layout 1 28/01/2015 12:57 Page 2



Guide to fertiliser selection according to aims and management Raise P or K index

Maintain P or K

No P or K needed


■ Straight nitrogen, or preferably with some sulphur, eg 27N 12SO3. NP fertiliser early spring with NK + sulphur mid-season ■ Or, more traditional high N, low PK fertiliser all season ■ Aim for 50-60kg/ha K and 70-80kg/ha P/year to raise indices

■ Straight nitrogen, or preferably with some sulphur, eg 27N 12SO3. NP products for early spring grass ■ Consider high N, low KS products ■ Maintenance for grazing is 20-30kg/ha P and K

■ Straight N or for added performance, high N with sulphur product

Cutting using slurry

■ Straight N + sulphur early, a 20.8.12 type with sulphur mid-season and NKS product later season

■ Straight nitrogen, or preferably with some sulphur, eg 27N 12SO3 ■ Compound with High N and K and low P, with sulphur. ■ NKS products

Cutting, no slurry

■ Ensure adequate NP and particularly ■ Compound with High N and K and low P, with sulphur, K levels, if necessary 15.15.20/ albeit at higher rates in absence of slurry 17.17.17 type products ■ NKS with higher analysis needed

Extensive grazing

■ High N, low PK compounds Avoid heavy K applications in early season

■ High N, low PK, preferably with sulphur, NKS where early season P reserves are higher *This is a broad guide only. Consult your FACTS qualified adviser regarding the best strategy

■ Straight nitrogen, or preferably with some sulphur, eg 27N 12SO3 for your farm.

40% are missing out on potential gains. “All dairy farmers should be putting together a thorough nutrient plan which takes into account all of the nutrients on farm - whether that is FYM, sludges, composts or slurries and should ensure soil pH is kept at the right level.” As a minimum, soils should be tested every three to four years for P, K, Mg and pH. Ideally slurries and muck should also be tested for N, P, K and dry matter prior to every spreading occasion. These results should then be collated to establish a specific plan based around whether various indices need building or maintaining. An appropriate compound fertiliser can then be selected (see table, above).

A farm specific nutrient plan can help boost grassland performance and reduce costs by allowing targeted applications.



GT p16 Case Study VR EP_Layout 1 28/01/2015 13:00 Page 1

Case study


Annual soil testing pays dividends


electing specific compound fertilis-

Further resources

ers based on soil

pFor more info rmation on sele cting fertilisers, orde r your GrowHo w Blueprint for Growth in Gr ass Booklet on Te l: 0151 357 5758. You can also speak to th e GrowHow team for some free advice on crop nutrition pRead about th e benefits of us ing granulated ferti lisers over blen de d fertilisers at: www.growhow s

analysis results has enabled Lancashire

producer Richard Corlett to cut costs, target nutrients more effectively and help increase milk from forage. Mr Corlett runs a herd of 180, 8,500-litre Holsteins Friesians at Home Farm, Ormskirk. With grass silage making up two thirds of the forage component of the diet, the farm is

be cut for a third time. Mr

hugely reliant on making three

Corlett says any fields then

cuts of quality silage a year.

entering the grazing round will receive straight N, depending

Test results

on soil test results. Individual

Several years ago Mr Corlett

field soil test results are also

started to use soil test results

used to target slurry and

to establish if savings could be


made in fertiliser applications.

Mr Corlett continues to test a

Results showed years of

quarter of the farm every year

applying a standard 20:10:10

to ensure soil indices are on

compound of N, P, K, had

Richard Corlett says the targeted approach saves the farm £55/ha (£22/acre).

track and believes the £10-12

caused a build-up in P.

there was no economic or

application is estimated to

spent on a soil test is hugely

commercial benefit in putting

bring the farm a saving of


were high enough at index 3

on extra P. Plus we were

£55/ha (£22/acre) (GrassRight

and 4 across the whole farm,”

also environmentally aware

Project, 2009).

“Results showed P levels

of not over-fertilising

says Mr Corlett. “That meant

with P.”

Top tips and pH re P,K,Mg u r fo t s in man ds pSoil te for nutrients mpoun c liser o unt ti o r c ore c fe m A ll r a p en fo ur in ft h o lp d u n s a pUse n little nitroge pApply lisation s every t uti reader p s r e efficien s rtili rate fe pCalib em e s u u th time yo

fertiliser. We can then target nuSlurry

trients where they are needed -

Establishing the

Now, silage ground receives

whether that is FYM or com-

nutrient value of

33,700 litres/ha (3,000 gallons/

pound fertiliser,” he says.

slurries enabled the

acre) of slurry after the end of

This approach has been

formulation of an

the closed period, followed by

part of an overall grassland

accurate nutrient

112kg/ha of straight N in two

improvement strategy which


dressings. After first cut, a

has included sward lifting,

plan, using

25:0:13 fertiliser including

dock control, introduction of


sulphur, but excluding

white clover and reseeding. All


phosphorus is applied. This

of this has helped increase

is followed by slurry.

milk from forage from 3,700

fertilisers to make up any shortfalls. The resulting targeted approach to fertiliser


“Soil testing is a no brainer as you can make big savings in

Following second cut, the

litres/ha (329 gallons/acre) in

same compound fertiliser will

2008 to the current 6,840

be applied on ground due to

litres/ha (609 gallons/acre).


GT p17 18 Weed Control VR EP_Layout 1 28/01/2015 13:02 Page 1

Weed control


Getting more grass from what you have got is a cost effective boost to grassland productivity.

Tackle infestations to up production mplementing a farm-spe-


increase stocking rates or make

cific weed control plan is a

more silage? The key is grass

crucial part of maximising

utilisation. If grass keeps grow-

grassland performance and

ing well, it will keep the weeds

milk from forage.

out,” he explains.

shows a 10% population of

problem on farms with poor

docks and/or thistles can result

grass management such as

in a corresponding grass yield

over or under grazing. Bare

loss in tonnes of DM of 10%.

patches caused by poaching

Work carried out by SRUC

By tackling this infestation

Weeds can often be more of a

can also cause weeds to

head on, there is the potential

ingress. Generally perennial

to produce around 16,604 litres

weeds such as docks, thistles

more milk in an eight-hectare

and nettles will be of most con-

(20-acre) field thanks to im-

cern in grassland, along with

proved grass production (see

buttercups, dandelions and

you spray weeds at the right


table, page 18). At a milk price


time,” says Mr Bailey. “Ideally

p Spot treatment with a

weeds should be actively

knapsack sprayer – Can be

Assessing and planning

growing when herbicides are

cost effective when weed levels

of 26ppl that could be worth about £4,317.

A 40% dock infestation will result in a corresponding loss in grass yield. “Get spraying planned in so

and will stimulate active

pBefore starting any weed

applied. With silage leys you

are less than 5%.

omy leader from Dow Agro-

control programme, it is

also need to ensure herbicides

pOverall spray - Use on fields

Sciences, says the benefits of

important to assess the level

are applied three weeks before

with a weed infestation of more

weed control are far reaching,

and type of weed problems on

cutting so planning ahead is

than 5%. Overseeding with

allowing improvements in grass

farm. The aim should be to


grass and/or clover may be

quality and the potential to re-

tackle issues before grass yield

duce bought-in feed costs.

and quality are affected.

Andy Bailey, grassland agron-

However he says it is crucial to

A good time to assess weed

plan how you are going to man-

levels is April when they start to

age the extra grass produced.

allowing maximum benefit throughout the season.

become visible.

“Are you going to

Start by counting

Top tips

Applying sprays early in the year will lead to the best results,

the population of

weeds e right th r fo t ds are oduc en wee ight pr h r w e e th pUse right tim y at the pSpra g lothing growin when ctive c te o r actively p ations c le li b p a it im su tal pWear onmen er envir id lines s n o pC d spray n a s le g zz sprayin ray tanks, no p s g n in a y le a r pC er sp ghly aft u o r o th

docks or thistles in a 7m by 5m (23ft by 16ft) area of each field. A count of 10

necessary to fill in any gaps produced. Where weed problems are significant and a ley has become unproductive, destroy-

What are your weed control

ing the sward and undertaking


a complete reseed may be

There are a number of weed

appropriate. This is where

control options, predominantly

benchmarking field perform-

for the treatment of docks,

ance on your farm becomes

thistles and nettles:

useful in making management

pPrevention - Prevention


is always key and the aim is

Mr Bailey says it is worth

equates to

for good grass management

undertaking a complete

a popula-

to produce a dense, healthy

sward burn off prior to

tion of

sward which will prevent

reseeding to get good results

10%. Use

weeds from ingressing.

from the new ley.

this information to put a plan together.

pTopping - It will only provide short-term visual satisfaction


“Currently only 17% of swards are destroyed before


GT p17 18 Weed Control VR EP_Layout 1 28/01/2015 13:04 Page 2

Weed control

Targeting the right herbicide for the right weed challenge at the right time of year can restore grassland productivity. reseeding. However, the only

soil structure, however there

one main species of weed,

clopyr or aminopyralid translo-

way to get rid of weed grasses,

are few clover-safe sprays and

whereas a broad-spectrum

cate into root systems more

especially couch, is by carrying

they can struggle to give last-

product should be used when

effectively and will give more

out sward destruction with

ing weed control. Where clover

a wide range of weeds are

lasting levels of control.

glyphosate prior to reseeding,”

is important, consider drilling

present. There are a range of

he explains.

the new seed mix without

products on the market with

a 10-15% better control of

clover, spraying the weeds and

different chemistry which

weeds over old chemistry and

introducing clover later.

impacts on effectiveness and

give more lasting control so


working out more cost effec-

Once the new ley emerges, it is easier to kill dock seedlings as they come through in the

On established leys, weigh up

These will generally achieve

tive in the long-term. Mr

new ley rather than letting

weed infestation levels and

them establish a foothold.

the value of clover. Where weed

products tend to reflect older

Bailey advises speaking to

infestations are small, spot

chemistry and will typically be

your local herbicide supplier

of herbicide options for new

treatment may leave clover un-

based on MCPA or 2,4-D or a

to discuss the different

leys, but new ones are planned

scathed. When weeds are over

combination of these products

options available.

- talk to your supplier about

15% it may be worth spraying

with CMPP (mecoprop).

which product to use on your

with a modern effective herbi-


cide to clear weeds and then

effective at killing the root

reintroduce clover.

systems of perennial weeds

There are a reduced number

Clover should also be considered when planning

Mr Bailey says cheaper

“These products are less

like docks, nettles and

herbicide use. Its presence

Treatment choice

thistles and may require a

can provide valuable nitrogen,

pTargeted herbicides will be

follow up spray,” he says.

increase intakes and maintain

more appropriate if there is

More information ng pFor more on controlli it weeds in grassland, vis

New products based on tri-

The value of lost grass due to different populations of docks and or thistles in an eight-hectare (20-acre) field Population of docks or thistles %

Lost grass due to weeds (tonnes DM)

ME value of lost grass (MJ of energy)

10 8 88,000 20 16 176,000 30 24 264,000 40 32 352,000 The model assumes the field is capable of producing 10 tonne DM/ha consumed with no wastage.



Volume of extra milk that could be produced (litres)

Extra tonnes of grass DM (tonnes DM)

16,604 8 33,208 16 49,811 24 66,415 32 at an ME of 11 MJ/kg DM and 100% of DM is

Dow WP_Dow WP 28/01/2015 13:27 Page 1

Got weeds?

Get more grass from what you’ve got. Our grassland herbicides deliver very high levels of perennial weed control with excellent levels of grass safety. Topping weeds is not the answer. It’s costly, a waste of any grass that’s present and weeds will grow back! Talk to your local supplier to find out how we can help you get more grass from what you’ve got.

GrazonPro Thistlex

Forefront T DoxstarPro PastorPro

Spot treatment for docks, nettles and thistles.

Better weed control. Better grazing. Seek advice before use.

Gets to the root of problem thistles and nettles.

Controls docks. Improves silage.

Outstanding control of docks, nettles and thistles.



GT p20 22 How to Use Grass VR EP_Layout 1 28/01/2015 13:06 Page 1

How to use grass Getting every step right at silage harvest and ensuring a robust grazing management strategy will help maximise grass utilisation.

How to maximise grass utilisation


hether talking about grazed grass or clamped silage, taking

the time to plan how best to manage the crop at harvest will pay dividends. Mark Cox from Micron Bio-Systems says silage-making may be largely dictated by the weather, but there are several things farmers can do to drive improvements in silage quality. “With current pressure on milk price, there’s even greater need to keep costs down to ensure you are making the most of

The ideal silage clamp should have a clean face and zero waste, with plenty of new tyres to weight the sheet down.

home produced silage. That

ence between producing a well

Fields should also be assessed

introducing soil borne organ-

means paying attention to detail

conserved forage crop and

ahead of cutting to check they

isms into the clamp.

at every stage; from the field, to

a poor one.

are ready for harvest.

the clamp and feeding out,” he says. Mr Cox believes it is the

“Jobs like power washing out

“It’s important that any


the clamp and repairing cracks

nitrogen from fertiliser or FYM

At cutting, grass should

in concrete are the ones that

has been effectively taken up

generally be cut to leave a

small jobs which can often

often don’t get

by grass prior to cutting or it will

76mm (3in) aftermath. Cutting

make all the differ-

done, but it is well

affect the fermentation in the

after 11-12pm will maximise

worth making the

clamp and reduce palatability,

grass sugars which are essen-

effort to prevent

as well as introducing spoilage

tial for achieving a good clamp

wastage,” he

organism into the clamp” says


ilage s s p i t Top

at out wh am ab te says. m r or fa tractor n o c r u k to yo ve pSpea to achie g e Assessing in y tr e r over th y a e you n is k ghly all o u ti o a r d o li fields o n th pCons sa ts dow use it a t t ht shee o ig n e Mr Cox reco W p hee net, d n the s green te e n h c e g fa v ti r o su ommends nd aw ome a n using it in a d p pWhe d e m la fe thinking all et - c ys ensure d flat she for seven da n a s about ay r grab every d pened shea rly la r u a g h e s r what pUse leaned ery is c you are trymachin ing to achieve from the season’s crop well in advance.


Mr Cox.

“Getting the wilt time right is

Ideally, fresh grass should

also really important,” says Mr

be tested two to three days

Cox. “If you pick up too quickly

before cutting to establish N

grass will be too wet and you’ll

levels. Any fields with visual

get run off in the clamp, but if

signs of dung should also be

you leave it too long it will be

taken out of the cutting round

too dry and cause heating in

to avoid problems. Areas

the clamp. It is an art form, but

with lots of molehills should

be flexible and work with the

be noted and rolled, avoided


altogether or cut at a higher height. This will avoid


Mr Cox also emphasises the importance of speaking to the

GT p20 22 How to Use Grass VR EP_Layout 1 28/01/2015 13:07 Page 2

with drier silage requiring even

should select a crop

more rolling,” he says.

specific additive which

Farmers should also avoid the

will drive the pH drop

temptation to delay sheeting up

in the clamp and

until the next day, when finish-

also cover a range

ing a job late in the day as oxy-

in pH.

gen will be produced in the

“An additive

meantime, leading to greater

that creates

chance of spoilage.

acetic acid at the clamp face will also

He says best practice sheeting up should include:

help retard the

Job washing s like power o repairing ut the clamp and c are the o racks in concrete nes th get done at often don’t worth ma , but it’s well king th prevent w e effort to astage Mark Cox

pUsing side sheets to create

growth of yeasts and

Mark Cox

a proper seal.

moulds and prevent

whole farm team about what

pUsing a cling film sheet to

spoilage when the clamp is

you are trying to achieve. This

create an aerobic seal, then

opened,” he says.

should include explaining to the

pApplying a double layer of

person on the mower and rake why ground contact should be

limit oxygen penetration. All

“Including an enzyme has

machinery used in every stage

black sheeting or one of

also been shown to improve

of feed preparation should also

double thickness, then

digestibility and result in

be thoroughly cleaned. This will

avoided to prevent soil getting

pUsing a heavy green mesh

0.5-1MJ more energy per kilo of

prevent contamination issues

in the clamp.


dry matter. If a cow consumes

which could lead to depressed

pApplying plenty of weight.

10kg DM of a 10.5ME silage

cow health and performance.

to them about your aims and

When using tyres, make sure

compared to a 10ME silage that

make sure you work together to

they are close together and

will result in an extra litre

out by the University of

form a partnership,” says Mr

discard any with wires

of milk.”

Bristol found bacterial levels


showing to prevent risk of cows

“If you use contractors, speak

This could involve discussing the appropriate chop length for

The Hy-Sil Project carried

indicative of contamination

ingesting them and puncturing


with slurry in 61% of TMRs.

the sheet.

Mr Cox also stresses the

However, they only identified

importance of managing the

contamination in 17% of

the silage you want. This will

Taking the time to get it right

largely be dictated by the dry

at this stage will pay dividends

clamp face effectively at

silage samples, which suggest

matter of the crop, with wetter

considering 5% wastage

feed-out to further minimise

contamination is likely to

silages needing to be chopped

caused by aerobic spoilage on

spoilage problems.

have occurred during TMR

longer to reduce potential run

a 1,000t grass clamp could

off. For silages of under 20%

amount to £1,250-worth of lost

big as it will take too long to get

DM a chop length of 20-40mm

material. To help avoid these

across and will create problems

(0.8-1.5in) is recommended. For

losses, a propionic based

with yeasts and

silages of more than 20% DM,

granular additive such as

moulds. Also avoid

10-25mm (0.3-1in).

Profresh can be applied to the

using a bucket to dig

top and shoulders of the clamp.

out the clamp as this

Consolidation and sheeting

“Don’t make the face too

loosens silage and

Mr Cox believes consolidation


oxygenates the

and appropriate weighting

Silage additives such as

clamp, leading to

down of silage sheeting are

Advance can also play a

more yeasts and

some of the main areas where

valuable role in both minimising

moulds,” he says.

farmers can make significant

spoilage and maximising the


quality of silage produced,

should use

which can help drive milk



shear grabs to ensure

“The most important job is rolling the clamp. Make sure it is rolled, rolled and rolled again

Mr Cox says producers

Ideally, farmers

preparation. “Mixer wagons should be washed regularly and avoid any contamination

Further resources pFor more deta iled information on managing grazed grass, request yo ur copy of the Gras s+ manual from DairyCo at www.dairyco pFor informatio n on silage addi tives and TMR stabilis ers visit: micronbio-syste / forage-feed-pre servation

silage is torn from the clamp to



GT p20 22 How to Use Grass VR EP_Layout 1 28/01/2015 14:15 Page 3

How to use grass

Consolidation and appropriate weighting down of silage sheeting are some of the main areas where farmers can make significant improvements, says Mr Cox. with slurry or dirt around the

down to a similar value of

the most effective way to make

The main thing is to record and

farm,” says Mr Cox. “You


more from grazed grass. This

act on data.

wouldn’t make a cake with a

Strategic grazing will ensure

strategy works on the principle

dirty food processor and it’s the

grass quality is optimised which

of rotating stock between pad-

used to create a grazing

same with the ration.”

will help drive down costs and

docks depending on grass

wedge which will enable you

maximise milk from forage,


to target the appropriate fields

Grazing Careful planning is just as

This should involve walking

explains Mr Cox. “Monitoring grass and feeding

the farm weekly during the

vital when it comes to making

at the right time is key to

main grazing

the most of grazed grass.

maximising utilisation. It is

season to monitor grass quan-

Grazed grass remains the

crucial to monitor grass growth

tities in each field. The

cheapest feed available to dairy

and match stocking rates

best way to

farms, but only when utilised

accordingly to maintain grass



quality,” he says.

record covers

The 2013 Kingshay Forage

All grazing management

is to use a

Costs report shows good

strategies should be targeted

grass plate

quality grazed grass of 11.8

around making the most of

meter to estab-

ME has a relative feed value

grass at the three leaf stage

lish kgDM/ha.

compared to wheat and soya

when the plant is of maximum

Alternatively, a

of £197t/DM. However poor

quality. This is where regular

sward stick or

quality grazed grass at 10.5

monitoring of growth rates and

marking specific

ME has a relative feed value of

covers is crucial.

heights on a wellie

£186t/DM, which brings it


Adopting rotational grazing is

can be effective.


Information can then be

for grazing (see top tips, page 21).

zing a r g u s p how yo Top ti to see

nt essme rm ass fa s a t o gras zing y ou ways s pCarr om gra te fr a e g r o d an tm year tracks can ge of the decent e shoulders g e r u s 0 2,8 0k pEn at th 2,500t tilised a u s e r b e can to cov ows on DM/ha pPut c ,500kg th 1 f o l a u row a resid DM/ha lity reg down to ount of qua e z a r pG e am imise th to max

Micron WP_Micron WP 28/01/2015 13:31 Page 1

GT p24 OBC Checklist VR EP_Layout 1 28/01/2015 13:09 Page 1

GrasslandToolkit checklist to help Use the following as an action list

Once you have decided on a reseed: ding to Consider a complete grass burn off prior to resee

Soils Ensure up-to-date field soil test results down to Check for signs of compaction by digging a hole 380-460mm (15-18in) in each field Assess soil smell, colour and rooting depth

control weeds Plan how you are going to reintroduce clover to Select grass and clover varieties from the NIAB

a new sward

Recommended Grass and Clover List longevity of Choose grass mixes to fit with management and

Look for signs of pests

Grassland productivity


Carry out red stem test to assess field proportion


perennial rye-grass Monitor field clover content through season field Monitor and record silage loads coming off each

Fertiliser ements Assess soil test results and identify nutrient requir es Test nutrient content of slurries, FYM and sludg into Develop a nutrient management plan which takes account all nutrients on-farm ements Select a specific compound fertiliser to meet requir

Record number of grazing days


Include sulphur in compound fertilisers

Assess field weed burden – count weeds in a (23ft by 16ft) area in November or spring

7m by 5m

nt to prevent Think about ways to improve grass manageme weeds from ingressing is higher Put weed control plans in place if weed burden than 10% nge Select herbicide to target specific weed challe

Reseeding If you tick any

boost grassland performance

of the following, your ley is beyond its productive

life and will benefit from replacement: chickweed or Increased presence of docks, thistles, nettles, other weeds grasses, red Unproductive grasses such as bents, meadow fescue and Yorkshire fog ity Drops in silage production or stock carrying capac Slow regrowths after cutting or grazing Reduced response to fertiliser Rejection or uneven grazing n Intermittent growth or shortening of growing seaso

Silage-making -making Talk to contractor or farm team to establish silage aims (chop length, etc.) s N levels

Test fresh grass samples prior to cutting to asses Select a crop specific silage additive

e layer of

Use side sheets, a cling wrap sheet and a doubl black plastic on clamp Consolidation is key

Ensure enough weight on clamp wires showing Sort through tyres and throw away those with Ensure shear grabs are sharpened rly Clean mixer wagon and feeding equipment regula

Grazing Plan how you are going to manage grazing you, such as Monitor covers – use whichever method suits a sward stick or grass plate meter Plan a rotation graze Enter covers at 2,500-2,800kg DM/hectare and down to 1,500kg DM/ha s grazing Invest in tracks and gateways so cows can acces

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Grassland Toolkit February 2015  

Grassland Toolkit February 2015  

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