As the New Year is now well under way, it is time to start thinking about the grazing year ahead and soil sampling is key.

Step one: soil sampling. Soil Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) levels can change from year to year. It is recommended to test soil every second year (every third year for ph, but every two years for P and K.

However paddocks that are growing a lot of grass and paddocks that are underperforming should be sampled annually to identify current ph as well as P and K availability; the target index for both P and K is index three.

To test samples for magnesium also will be slightly more expensive so you can test every second sample, for example for Magnesium to get an indication of the farms soil Mag status. High Mag levels (>index three) can be problematic for soil structure, leading to compaction and lower quality grass.

Testing paddocks/silage ground and analysing results allows us to identify what fertiliser will be best on different areas of the farm this year. Time and time again, I see farmers reseeding ground and two and three years later, grass production and quality falls dramatically as the soil is not balanced in terms of ph, P and K.

The benefits of reseeding include increased grass production and quality, which can be sustained for many years with the correct nutrient application. Balanced soil and a healthy soil structure will increase kgsMS/ha produced and farm profit. Let’s start the year as we mean to go on.

By Cathal Mc Aleer, consultant with Grasstec Dairy Solutions which provide a dairy consultancy, farm infrastructure design and livestock sourcing service in Ireland and UK