Livestock farmers faced with critical shortages of summer grazing
must make reseeding a priority this autumn if they are to avoid
similar problems in future years, says Paul Billings of British
Paul Billings of British
He points out that the average grazing ley in the UK is kept down
for around 10 years, and that under average conditions this will
be long past its best and animal performance will undoubtedly suffer.
“First of all, any ley of 8-10 years duration is going to
contain about 50% weed grasses such as the meadow grasses, creeping
bent and Yorkshire fog,” says Mr Billings. These are lower
yielding, of inferior quality, and will be significantly less responsive
“Furthermore, even the selected varieties that remain in
the older leys will be of significantly lower potential than the
latest available varieties. Aber varieties from the IGER breeding
programme are increasing yield potential by 1% per year on average,
and have made quantum leaps in terms of herbage quality.
“The best of today’s grazing varieties AberStar and
AberAvon have grazing D values of 11.3 and 10.8 respectively, which
compare with just 8.0 for the industry standard of 10 years ago,
“Higher digestibility (D value) means that animals will
eat more and also utilise the grass more effectively. Hence, in
situations where sufficient grass is available to satisfy their
increased appetite, improved digestibility has a very large effect
on output. NIAB use the guideline of a one point increase in D
value increasing animal output by 5%.
“Reseeding will also create the best opportunity to introduce
clover, which in a hot and dry season such as 2006 is going to
be particularly beneficial in maintaining productivity and herbage
quality. Clover maintains very high D values throughout the summer,
whilst grass quality can deteriorate when plants begin to head.
Again, clover breeding has made significant advances in recent
years, and it is known that this species is more tolerant of hot
conditions and maintains its nutritive value far better than ryegrasses.”
Work undertaken as part of the Grassland Management Practice into
Profit programme at Newton Rigg in Cumbria and Duchy College in
Cornwall showed an increase in production of 32% from newly seeded
leys compared with old established grassland.
Advice on grass and clover reseeding strategy can be obtained
free of charge in several booklets available from British Seed
Houses, including the company’s Seed Mark varieties catalogue.
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