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Stackyard News May 2012

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Silage Break Cuts Cost of Growing Wheat

High protein grass and clover crops grown for silage on a mixed farm near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire are helping cut fertiliser costs in the following wheat crop by a third.

Mark Greaves is expecting high yields from his Sabre Hi-Pro grass and clover silage crop this year.
Mark Greaves

With arable, dairy and beef units to manage, the Greaves’ family is keen to grow crops that contribute across all enterprises. Forty-five hectares of a short-term red clover, Italian/hybrid ryegrass Oliver Seeds mixture which includes a new perennial type hybrid called Tetragraze, sown after barley, has provided high yields of nutritious silage and also improved the soil for subsequent arable crops.

The clover fixed nitrogen from the air and its long tap roots enhanced soil structure and brought moisture to the surface. This made cultivations for the next arable crop particularly easy even in dry conditions.

“Our aim is to use less bought-in fertiliser while prices are so high, but we also need four cuts of good quality silage to keep butterfat and protein up, as our milk goes for cheese-making locally ,” says Mark Greaves who is responsible for the dairy enterprise.

“This land is not really suitable for oilseed rape – but it is good for growing grass, so this type of mixture fits into the rotation well.

“First cut is usually the first week of May and the resulting silage buffer fed to the 260 high yielding dairy cows in summer. The fibre in it promotes rumen health and keeps milk quality up. We cut as much as 19 tonnes DM/ha and it is much more productive than longer term or older leys, even in drought years like the last one.

“A significant benefit however is the residual nitrogen left in the soil from the red clover after two years – as this allows us to grow wheat for much less cost. We cut out the first dressing of fertiliser in the spring completely.”

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