Short supply and increased Europe-wide demand means UK farmers will be paying up to 50% more for their grass seed in 2012, compared to this time last year.
‘Buy grass seed early to get the best varieties’
says DLF Trifolium’s Tim Kerridge.
But this should not put them off reseeding or renovating pastures that are under-performing, says Tim Kerridge of DLF Trifolium, the UK’s largest seed supplier. He believes the investment is still definitely worthwhile.
“A £20 rise in the cost of an acre of grass seed adds just 82 pence to the cost of producing one tonne of grass dry matter,” Mr Kerridge explains.
“However a 20% fall in grass yield due to tired, worn out pasture, could reduce milk output from grass by more than 50%. This is because cows take energy from what they eat to maintain themselves first, before diverting whatever is left into milk production. This has significant cost implications way above the increase in the price of grass seed.”
A stockpile in 2008 and high cereal prices have driven arable farmers in Europe to switch from producing grass seed to wheat; a less risky and cheaper crop to manage.
But recent hard winters have hammered older pastures in the UK, and low grass growth in 2010 and 2011 after two dry springs stimulated an increase in re-seeding. Over the same period European consumption of grass seed rose by 20%.
“There will be grass seed to buy this spring, but we would encourage farmers to earmark the mixtures that will help them meet their grassland objectives, and to order early to secure the best available varieties,” says Mr.Kerridge.
“Reseeding with improved varieties has many benefits, not just increased yields. They have better nutritional qualities, use nitrogen more efficiently, have greater disease resistance and persist much longer. The cost of buying the seed and sowing it, is very quickly re-couped in increased grass production and improved animal performance.”
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