2013-04-19 xml
Forage Options for Farmers Running Short of Home-Grown Feeds

Livestock producers facing the prospect of light first cut silages due to the late arrival of spring, will need to act now to make up the shortfall according to Rod Bonshor, general manager for Oliver Seeds.

“The last eight months have been incredibly challenging for stock farmers, and the combination of a long winter and short growing season will make filling silage clamps difficult.

Undersowing maize with cocksfoot grass can have many benefits

Undersowing maize with cocksfoot grass can have many benefits

“However, there are several options for boosting forage crop production this summer. But farmers need to decide what they are going to do as soon as possible.”

Quick fixes
New leys of high yielding, short-term grass seeds mixtures, even sown now have the capacity to produce up to 13t DM/ha over the coming season. These are likely to consist mainly of tetraploid Italian ryegrass varieties and Westerwolds – which establish rapidly and soon produce bulky crops for cutting.

“Demand for mixtures with Westerwolds in them such as Tornado, is unprecedented at the moment - they are flying out the warehouse door,” says Mr Bonshor. “This is because they deliver high yields very quickly. But bear in mind they only last two years before they need replacing.”

Where summer grazing is likely to be short, brassicas such as the specialist semi-dwarf forage rape Winfred, offer high protein feed that can be ready in as little as eight weeks from sowing – which may help to finish lambs or provide additional fresh feed for dairy cows.

Don’t wait until autumn
Grass fields in a poor state and badly poached after last year’s rain, may be a good place to spread last winter’s FYM and slurry prior to being ploughed and reseeded.

Although it may be tempting to wait until the autumn to reseed, missing out on six month’s worth of production is something few farmers can afford to do this year.

If growing conditions are good, sowing longer term leys now, made up of mixtures of intermediate and late perennial ryegrasses could produce 10t DM/ha between now and late autumn. Always look for mixtures with varieties on the Recommended Grass and Clover Lists, as these are the highest yielding and have the best agronomic and feeding characteristics.

Undersowing maize
While rarely done so far, there are opportunities for undersowing maize crops with grass. This has to be done in conjunction with an appropriate herbicide spray programme to suit both crops, usually carried out when the maize is 20cms high.

‘Initial trials work in Denmark shows that a light inter-row sowing of 8kg/ha of the highly palatable cocksfoot Donata does not adversely affect the performance of the maize crop, and cocksfoot survives well under shade,” Mr Bonshor explains.

“After the maize is harvested, the grass sward not only provides autumn and winter keep, but also mops up any excess nutrients and moisture, as well as reducing the risks of soil erosion at and after harvest.”

Oliver Seeds

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