‘Farmer of the Year’ gets to the roots of grass varieties

Peter and Paula Hynes farm a herd of 180 pedigree Holstein cows in Aherla, Co. Cork. The Hynes family won the Zurich / Farming Independent Farmer of the Year in 2017.

Grass production has mushroomed in recent years, with the farm growing – on average – 15t/ha (dry matter) last year. This has been essential for the Hynes family to meet the growing feed demand from the rapidly increased herd.

The farm covers are monitored closely and surpluses are taken out accordingly. Last year, bales were cut every week between April 1 and September 15.

An aggressive reseeding programme has been central to increasing herbage production. Some of the farm has been reclaimed with drainage works and a nutrient programme has been put in place to build soil indexes on this ground.

Peter and Paula are part of the Teagasc on-farm variety study. As part of this, paddocks are sown with individual grass varieties so that they can be assessed. Peter and Paula have outlined the headline points of some of the varieties on their farm.

AstonEnergy

Unsurprisingly, the overriding comment on AstonEnergy is that it always achieves an excellent residual after grazing.

Peter comments that AstonEnergy is the only tetraploid that can be grazed clean – even when the cover goes up to 1700kg/ha or 1800kg/ha. This is a very useful management tool when there is a burst of growth.

If there’s a number of paddocks ready to be grazed after high growth, we know the AstonEnergy will wait a few days to be grazed; making it easier to make decisions around baling surpluses.

While many paddocks on the farm were mowed for surplus bales last year, the paddock of AstonEnergy was one that definitely didn’t need it as the cows were keeping it so clean.

Meiduno

This late tetraploid was sown on April 2, last year, at 15kg/ac; it established well considering it had five dry weeks after sowing.

The variety has excellent spring growth on the Pasture Profit Index (PPI). On the farm, Meiduno grew – on average – 16kg/ha/day from January through to the end of March, which was excellent in a slow spring.

Paula said that the cows grazed it out well in March and the heifers are tasked with the current grazing, as the paddock is away from the parlour.

Oakpark

Oakpark is a new late diploid that will appear on the PPI in 2019. There is a limited amount of this seed available currently.

Peter and Paula sowed a paddock of Oakpark on May 21 last year, after visiting the Teagasc breeding programme in Co. Carlow.

The variety has only been sown a year and the current feeling is that the new variety grows a lot of grass in a dense sward. Last year, the variety grew 133kg/ha/day from the start of August – for five weeks. While this is only one paddock in one autumn, it is a positive sign for this variety.

When Oakpark comes on the PPI next year, it will have leading spring growth, leading silage yield and superior grass quality for a late diploid of high ground cover, which has been lacking in current varieties.

Grass mixtures

The husband-and-wife team also have some grass mixtures on the farm. They’ve sown three paddocks of Diamond Hi-Digestibility in the last three years – a total of 22ac. Cows are cleaning these paddocks out exceptionally with excellent yields.

The Diamond Hi-Digestibility mixture contained:

  • AstonEnergy: 3.5kg;
  • Meiduno: 2.5kg;
  • Glenveagh: 2.5kg;
  • Majestic: 2.5kg;
  • Crusader clover: 1kg.

Last week, a paddock was sown with AstonEnergy and Meiduno – mixed 50:50. Although this is non-traditional to mix two tetraploids with no diploid, they’re confident of being able to manage a percentage of the farm with high proportions of tetraploids. Click here for more information on grass varieties