First stage results from the new Yara GrassPrix competition now in have clearly demonstrated the rewards to be gainedby livestock farmers of treating grass as an arable crop.
The competition, which focuses on optimalgrass nutrition, sees ten beef and dairy farmers from the UK and Irelandcompete to achieve the highest combined energy yield (ME/ha) across two silagecuts.
The leading competitor at this stage, Welshdairy farmer Terry Clarke, achieved a huge fresh weight yield of 36.61t/ha withequally impressive feed values of 10.46tDM/ha and ME of 110,834MJ/ha on a firstyear ley. Results from a ley in its sixth year were lower with yields of27.06t/ha, and feed values of 5.41t DM/ha and ME of 54,127MJ/ha.
All Grass Prix competitors, however,performed extremely well when compared to the UK industry grass yields averageof 6-10t DM/ha/year*.
In general fresh weight yields have beenvery high, says Jez Wardman, Agronomist at Yara UK and Ireland, and analysis hasprovided some valuable insights. The most distinct at this stage has to be thebenefit of reseeding. Of all four of the leading competitors three had firstyear leys, one ley was in its second year.
The productivity of a grass ley will reduceas the most productive perennial ryegrasses start to die back confirms RichardRobinson, Agronomist at Countrywide Farmers. Stock damage also allows weedssuch as docks and nettles to reduce the area of quality grazing. Whilst you mayget a reasonable yield from an older ley, quality will be the real issue.Meadow grasses may fill the clamp, bale and stomach but will not offer thesame nutritive value and palatability as quality fodder varieties such astetraploid and diploid ryegrasses. Independent dairy specialists Kingshay haveshown the cost of producing milk to be as much as 2ppl less when grazing a newley compared to an old sward.
Grassrepays attention to detail
The key message for farms from Yaras GrassPrix competition is that grass deserves at least the same attention to detailas any arable crop.
Grass, whether grazed or fed as silage, isvirtually always the most cost-effective feed any livestock farmer can use,explains Mr Wardman so making the most of its yield and quality is essential,especially as it both improves profitability and reduces reliance on costly,unpredictable imports.
Grass yields in the UK and ROI on averageare delivering 6-10t/ha of dry matter a year, according to a recent Defrareport this is less than half of its biological potential.
One of the main reasons for this is poor orincorrect use of nitrogen (N) fertilizer in terms of rate and times ofapplication, says Mr Wardman and we are constantly expanding the use of ourprecision tools and apps for grassland and other forage crops.
Preparingfor second cut
Yaras regional sales teams are workingclosely with the 10 competing farmers advising on all aspects of grasslandmanagement from seed variety and soil and tissue analysis to recording inputs,application rates and timings. With the first cut safely in the clamp they havebeen offering advice on preparing for a second cut:
- Ideallyapply fertiliser the day following first cut
- Forevery 7 days delay yields are reduced by 6-8%
- Treatgrass as any other crop, assess what the offtakes are and, as aminimum, replace those in terms ofN,P and K
- Takeinto account slurry values when calculating nutrients
- Sulphur deficiency in grass is increasingly common.2014s British Survey of Fertiliser Practice recorded that only 16% ofsilage fields are getting a sulphur dressing. Sulphur deficiency,especially in second cut silage, can affect yields.
- Yara recommend applying 40kg/ha SO3per cut for optimum yield. YaraMila Sulphur Cut (22-4-14 + 7.5 SO3)applied at 475kg/ha will supply 105kg/ha N and 36kg/ha SO3
Finland 193% yieldincrease
The first Yara Grass Prix, staged in Finland in 2012, was won by adairy farmer who achieved an energy yield of 148,000 MJ/ha over three cuts, saidMr Wardman, taking his dry matter yield from 4.5t/ha to 13.2t/ha astaggering 193% yield increase which led to an increase in net profit of over1,000/ha.
There are obviously significant climaticdifferences, however, the farmer at the head of our leader board has alreadyachieved 110,834 MJ/ha. With DairyCo figures showing that a 10% increase in yield from forageresulted in an 8p/litre reduction in feed costs when compared to importedsoyabean meal we are keen to see the final results and how they will translateinto real financial benefits for UK and Irish farmers, concludes Mr Wardman.