An award-winning ley containing the Festulolium Advanced Grass™ Perseus mixed with perennial ryegrasses, grown on a farm beside the M6 at Knutsford, Cheshire, has produced higher yields of better quality silage, than previous crops of IRG grown on their own.
John Bell and his son Rob farm 222ha (550 acres), with 60ha (150 acres) of winter wheat, 32ha (80 acres) of maize and the rest down to grass to provide grazing and conserved forage for 250 pedigree Holstein dairy cows and 140 followers. Calving all year round, the average milk yield is 9,500 litres.
Italian ryegrass has been used as a two-year break for the wheat rotation for the past five years. Each year, weather permitting, 20ha (50 acres) of grass seed is direct drilled into arable stubble in the autumn with a combination drill.
“After last summer’s drought, our seeds specialist Bob Ashley encouraged us to try the new mix with 50% of the new DLF Trifolium variety Perseus in it,” says Mr Bell. “The meadow fescue genes make it cope better in extreme conditions.
“It germinated well in the warm, moist conditions and there was plenty of growth over winter. Sheep grazed it during January and February before it was shut up for silage.
“It received slurry via trailing shoe and 75kg/ha (60 units/acre) of nitrogen fertiliser before first cut, with a further 37kg/ha (30 units/acre) applied after each further cut, plus slurry.”
On 12 June we won the Cheshire Autumn-sown Ley Competition, which was judged by last year’s British Grassland Society President and Shropshire farmer John Downes.
High yields: high quality
Mr Bell usually takes four cuts of silage off the short term grass leys – but this year second cut was so delayed due to the wet weather only three were possible.
“Being late heading, the quality of the first cut was very high and the second cut produced a huge yield of very digestible grass. The third cut taken in mid September also produced high yields. In a season when maize has performed poorly and is still out in the field – having so much grass in the clamp is a real bonus.”
Bob Ashley has also been pleased with the results on Mr Bell’s farm.
“I really believe these ryegrass fescue crosses are the most important breakthrough in grass breeding for years,” says Mr Ashley. “Farmers can increase grass production from 10 to 50% just by including a variety like Perseus in the mix, which has to make economic sense.
“Leys with Festulolium Advance Grass™ also last for three years compared to two for pure Italians. This reduces the cost of producing silage as it spreads the investment in reseeding over an extra year.”
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