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Stackyard News Jun 05

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    High Sugar Grazing Gives Upland Beef Boost

English producers can boost annual beef output from their upland pastures by around a third, or nearly £240/ha, simply by using a high sugar ryegrass instead of a conventional variety when re-seeding, advises the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX).

Newly-published field-scale trials by the Institute for Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER), Aberystwyth as part of a Defra LINK project, show the commercially-available high Water Soluble Carbohydrate (WSC) ryegrass AberDart supporting nearly 200 kg more beef liveweight production per hectare per year than the conventional variety, Fennema.

Using both spring and autumn-born Charolais-cross steers, the strictly-controlled 2002 and 2003 season grazing trials involved two 2 ha plots of pasture of each variety established identically on the same upland in 2001 and managed in precisely the same way. Control plots of good quality perennial ryegrass/white clover permanent pasture were also maintained alongside the new seeds.

Averaged over the different ages of stock and seasons, the liveweight gains of the animals grazing the AberDart at 1.08 kg/day were over 30% higher than those on the Fennema; the advantage being apparent from the first year of use.

In fact, from the first year, performance from the high WSC ryegrass was equivalent to that of the long-established permanent pasture, despite its higher crude protein content.

The animal performance advantage of the AberDart over the conventional ryegrass was combined with a 12% higher stock-carrying capacity to give a net liveweight output boost of 196 kg/ha/year. 

Taking into account the annual silage cuts also taken from the trial plots, the high WSC ryegrass sward at £977/ha/year was calculated to be worth nearly £240 more than the conventional variety in beef productivity, and almost £100 more than the permanent pasture - more than offsetting the re-seeding cost. This confirms the extent of the benefits offered by high WSC varieties, underlining the value of including them in new ley seed mixtures.

IGER High Sugar Ryegrass Beef Performance Studies (2002 and 2003)



Permanent Pasture

Liveweight gain (kg/day)




Liveweight production (kg/ha/yr)




Net Value Output (£/ha/yr)




The trial was jointly funded by Defra, the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX), Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), the Milk Development Council (MDC) and British Seed Houses. The full report of the trial and associated studies are available in the EBLEX electronic document store at

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