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Stackyard News Aug 2012

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Failing Maize Crops Abandoned in Favour of Grass

Farmers with failing maize are starting to plough them in so they can establish other forage crops instead, says Agrovista seeds manager Nigel Walley. He has been talking to many producers concerned about lack of growth in their crops.

Poor maize crops are being abandoned
in favour of August-drilled grass

Poor maize crop

“A lot of maize on marginal sites or heavy land is looking patchy, so farmers are considering what to do to salvage the situation,” says Mr Walley.

“The past two years have been poor for maize in fields anything less than ideal for growing it. And with standing wholecrop currently selling at £700/acre it seems many dairy producers are worried about a forage shortfall this winter.”

Mr Walley says that those who act quickly can make the most of the warm, moist conditions to establish alternative forages. For example Italian ryegrass catch crops sown now could produce a cut of silage this autumn, followed by another larger one early next spring.

Choose grass mixtures with care

“Where farmers do decide to replace maize with grass, it is worth taking time to choose mixtures that will produce the right type of feed to boost milk production,” advises Mr Walley.

“The Recommended Grass and Clover Lists are a good starting point for researching the yield and growing characteristics of varieties. However, they do not give any in-depth data on how well they feed.

“However, most of the varieties in Agrovista’s Technisward range have been tested for nutritional quality by grass breeding company DLF Trifolium – so we have information on water soluble sugar, protein and fibre content, and cell wall digestibility. The last two are particularly important as they are vital components if ruminant diets are to work efficiently.”

Tim Kerridge sales director for DLF Trifolium agrees: “Independent research has shown that for every 1% increase in cell wall digestibility, 0.25litres more milk per cow can be produced each day. This is mainly because the nutrients in the grass can be accessed and broken down by the rumen bugs more easily.

“Fibre also promotes cudding and the production of saliva which balances rumen pH. This is essential where farmers are feeding high levels of concentrates. Grass with high fibre content and good cell wall digestibility can help prevent acidosis and improve productivity.

“Agrovista’s Technisward range contains our ‘Triple Crown’ varieties which have proved themselves in all three key areas – they are high yielding, grow well in the field, and produce nutritious feed that cattle can easily digest and turn into milk.”

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