Type Media Article
By Niall Treanor, B&T Drystock Adviser, Teagasc Galway/Clare
Conditions on farm have been quite wet in the west for the last six months making farming quite difficult from a grazing point of view, luckily most farmers have plenty of silage on hand after having quite a good summer last year. Mixed ground conditions are sure to have left some fields a little worse for wear where cattle have been let out. This may give the chance to consider reseeding these fields or other fields that have not quite performed as best that they could have. Reseeding is a considerable investment at €200-300/acre, so it’s worth making sure that it is done right.
Pastures need to be assessed before a particular course of action is taken. Deciding on when to reseed an old sward or pasture can be difficult. In some cases where the grass proportion of the sward still contains a high proportion of ‘desirable’ ryegrass then the sward may be improved by a change of management. As a pasture ages the composition of it changes and this change may be slowed down or accelerated according to management.
Reseeding has a number of benefits whether it is for the dairy farmer or the beef farmer. It can help to increase the amount of grass that is grown, help to lengthen the growing season, higher levels of energy and protein. These benefits can lead to more days at grass, more milk and better growth rates in cattle, which will help to put more money in your pocket.
When deciding on reseeding, carry out a field inspection ideally in March or April, walk through the field/paddock and access the sward in at least 10 different areas. Check for percentage of open ground, ryegrass and other grasses/weeds. Access both the grazing and silage cutting areas, as action to be taken can be very different. A good pasture should have little or no open spaces, however a small amount of space of less than 5% can be tolerated for tetraploids.
For intensive grassland farming, it is desirable that pastures contain greater than 60% ryegrass. Ryegrass is less persistent under silage harvesting when cut below 5 cm, harvest date or if the fertility status of the soil (N, P, K, Ph.) is low. Many unsown grass species are abundant in swards especially in long term pastures. All of these unsown species are much less productive and are much poorer in terms of digestibility than perennial ryegrass e.g. creeping bent grass. The main characteristics by which any grass can be judged are productivity – both yield and growth habit, palatability, persistence and time of growth.
If there is an increased amount of creeping bent and Yorkshire fog present, silage yields could be reduced by as much as 25% as both have a higher proportion of stem than perennial ryegrass and low soluble sugar levels. If weed grasses make up more than 30% of the sward, the yield and quality will certainly suffer. Any silage sward with less than 50% ryegrass in spring may need to be considered to be reseeded.
Less than half of total reseeding is carried out in spring. Stocking rates are generally high in the spring, ground is closed for silage reducing the area for grazing and a couple of recent dry May/ June over the last couple of years, which haven’t helped the case for spring reseeding need to be taken into account before taking ground out for reseeding. The stocking rate is lower in autumn than spring since little or no land is being cut for silage. All going well, spring reseeding gives the opportunity to get a couple of grazing’s in during the summer months when ground conditions are more favourable than the autumn.
If clover is being incorporated, then reseeding should be completed before the third week of august at the very latest. Clover needs to be sown early as it takes about 8 – 10 weeks to establish properly.
Once you have identified why and when you are reseeding a particular paddock/field, establish soil fertility, select your method of reseeding, and prepare the ground. Ensure good post sowing management such as knowing when to graze, spread Nitrogen, cut silage and the control of weeds and pests.
On a different note, the clock is ticking and don’t hesitate to contact your Advisor to get your 2021 Basic Payment application completed as the deadline is Monday,17th May 2021!