2014-07-30   facebook twitter rss

Irish Farmers to do More Reseeding this Autumn

On average, only about 2.5% of grassland is reseeded annually in the Republic of Ireland. It should be at least three times this level to bring our grass production up to what is required to reaching the Harvest 2020 targets for dairy and beef production.

There are a record number of livestock in the state according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO December 2013 livestock survey). This shows that the total number of cattle increased by +0.9% to 6,309,100. There are now 1.083 million dairy cows and 1.085 million beef cows to be fed and all the indications are that dairy cow numbers will continue to increase.

Pictured L2R  are Richard Daly, Dermot Campion & Paddy Daly  with British Friesian cows on reseeded  grassland

Pictured L2R are Richard Daly, Dermot Campion & Paddy Daly with British Friesian cows on reseeded grassland

Farmers know the value of reseeding, but the amount of ground reseeded any year largely depends on the weather. During this summer grass growth and weather conditions have been excellent so we have had record crops of good quality hay and silage.

For the first time in years many livestock farmers can now afford to take paddocks out of rotation and reseed with new and improved varieties. So the trade is expecting a big increase in reseeding this autumn.

Hereunder we profile the Daly brothers who are farming in partnership in County Tipperary.

Richard Daly and his brother Paddy farm a significant acreage of land close to Moyne, Thurles. Their dairy, beef and tillage farm is near Lisheen mine and as Tipperary is the windiest inland county they also have five wind turbines on their land.

The Daly brothers keep a high yielding herd of 140 spring calving, British Friesian cows and milk is supplied to Centenary Coop.

They also have a calf to beef enterprise and over 300 cattle are finished as beef. Aside from the replacements they need in the dairy herd, the policy is to go for Hereford and Aberdeen Angus crosses.

They also buy in British Friesian calves from another farmer for rearing to beef. Richard and Paddy believe in home grown feeds so they plant around 60 acres of winter barley and 20 acres of fodder beet each year.

They also grow brassicas such as Redstart (a hybrid of kale and rape), Stego fodder rape and Maris Kestrel kale. These crops are grazed from early November until early February.

However most of the milk is produced from grass so they are committed to reseeding as “it pays to reseed old pasture- our cattle thrive on the fresh grass, its top quality and we get higher milk yields”

Last year they did around 90 acres and usually reseed about 10% of their grassland every year depending on weather conditions.

They make 140 acres of first cut silage, 60-70 acres of second cut and around 700 bales each year from surplus grass. They do the mowing and tedding themselves and a cousin helps out with the raking.

The silage is made by a local contractor using a forage wagon-with this system they can time operations better to suit weather conditions and make more use of their own machinery.

The advice from Richard is look after the breeding (choose the best grass varieties), feeding (lime, P and K for the soil) and reseeding (good timing and best practice). Paddy and Richard reseed in the spring and autumn depending on weather conditions and the crop rotations. So they reseed after the rape and kale has been grazed in the spring, after second cut silage and after the barley has been harvested.

So far this year 25 acres have been reseeded and another 20 acres will be done after the barley has been harvested. According to Richard they spray the ground with Roundup and reseeds after second cut silage using an Amazone one pass system. The land is then rolled to establish a firm seedbed. Alternatively they graze the ground tightly and use the same procedure. After cereals the ground is ploughed first.

They get great help from Dermot Campion their local Germinal Seeds representative. “He gives us good advice us on the best varieties to use so we follow his recommendations on the most suitable mixtures for grazing or silage. We use a lot of the Extend Top 5 grazing and silage mixtures.” AberGain, AberChoice, Drumbo and Tyrella are all in the 2014 Top 5 Extend the premium grazing mixture supplied by their local Centenary Coop store.

According to Dermot, AberGain is a variety that “satisfies all the criteria” as regards total yield, spring growth and excellent digestibility as it is highest on the Irish Recommended List for these three characteristics.

Tyrella has very good ground cover along with excellent yields. It is a leafy variety giving high dry matter intakes. It also has the highest spring growth in its class-more than 18% over control varieties so no wonder it is this mixture.

As regards AberChoice it is popular with farmers because of its exceptional yield and excellent autumn growth. It has the highest digestibility in its class along with exceptional palatability and very good ground cover.

Dermot, says that “the three most important factors in selecting a grass seed mixture are total yield, digestibility and seasonal growth. You need early spring and late autumn growth in order to provide nutritious leafy grass for the milking cow and to maximise the number of days at grass.” The Moorepark Blueprint is to produce 90% of milk from grazing, so using varieties with the best spring and autumn growth is the key to success.”

Reseeding costs around €250 per acre, however it gives you a return on investment within two years. Research by Teagasc in Moorepark has shown that old permanent pasture produces three tonne/ha less than 100% Perennial ryegrass.

The main difference is in spring growth and the old pasture also gives a 25% lower response to expensive Nitrogen applications. On top of this old pastures have reduced digestibility and DM intakes.

Some farmers believe that reseeding is expensive however Dermot makes the point “some of those paying high prices for rented land would be better off reseeding their old pastures. Then they might not have to rent any land or a lot less of it. If you were to fly over Tipperary it is obvious which fields have been reseeded”.

Germinal seeds

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