Not all fodder solutions are on far away hills

With various schemes and incentives being launched, one could be forgiven for overlooking the potential fodder resources that could be produced under our noses.

Over 90% of the land area in Ireland is under grassland. The vast majority of feed for Irish cows, cattle and sheep will come from grassland. What is critical is that we get the most out of this grass between now and next April.

Damaged swards

Across the country swards are showing the effects of adverse weather. Some paddocks have been poached from grazing in wet conditions, while others are showing gaps after being dried out during the drought.

Gaps that have appeared due to drought stress after being cut for silage

What’s important now is that the events of the past don’t affect the fodder supply for the next nine months. 

Boosting production

This autumn there are three common methods being utilised to grow more feed on livestock farms:

  1. Over-seeding
  2. Sow rape and reseed next spring
  3. Full reseed this autumn

Over-seeding

Over-seeding has the advantage of filling in gaps in open swards without the down time and cost of a full reseed.

For a paddock to be suitable for over-seeding, it must first be free of dense weed grasses and consist mainly of perennial ryegrass (purple base).
Perennial ryegrass has a purple base at the bottom of the tiller. If a lot of the grass in a sward doesn’t have this purple base, consider full cultivation as a better option to boost fodder production

When over-seeding:
  • Use a drill such as a guttler, Aitchison or similar to improve seed-soil contact;
  • Use a mixture with a high proportion of tetraploid seeds, such as Diamond Overseeding mixture.

For more information on over-seeding mixtures click here

Sow forage rape and reseed next year

Sowing forage rape and reseeding after this crop is becoming more popular and may have a distinct benefit this year to build fodder supplies.

The benefits of forage rape:
  • Rape will have a higher yield than any other crop between now and the end of the year;
  • Rape is most suited to grazing;
  • A field that is under-performing will produce more fodder – when sown with rape this week – between now and next April than if it was left in an unproductive state;
  • The bare field next spring will allow for an early reseed and a longer year of production next year.

For more information on sowing and growing rape click here

Full reseed this autumn

It may seem counter productive to take a field out for reseeding this autumn, but the reality is the swards that are under-performing will really let a farm down in the spring.

The graph below shows the yield of a sward that has high and low proportions of perennial ryegrass.

In certain circumstances, swards are beyond repair and fields may not be suitable for sowing a forage brassica. In these circumstances, the following benefits will come from a full reseed:

  • Spring growth of grass swards will be a key part of meeting fodder demand next spring (see the graph above showing the superior growth from a sward with a high proportion of perennial ryegrass);
  • Swards that are under-performing need to be checked for underlying soil fertility issues;
  • Using varieties with high spring growth such as Meiduno in mixtures will boost spring growth next spring;
  • Warm soil temperatures at present will drive rapid establishment.

For more information on grass seed mixture please click here

Goldcrop will have an expert team on stand L14 this Sunday at the Tullamore show. Call by to discuss what fodder options are best suited to your farm.