Rejuvenating permanent pasture through forage crops

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Berwick-upon-Tweed
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03:13
  • 12 August 2022
IMG 1752 1140X526

Rejuvenating permanent pasture through forage crops

Forage crops provide an extremely cost-effective way of supplementing livestock rations during times when fodder may be scarce, during dry spells in summer and the cold winter months.

In this blog, Feeds & Small Seeds Manager Alasdair Ralston explains how a forage crop mixture of hybrid kale and stubble turnip also played an important role in the rejuvenation of some permanent pasture grassland at one of his customers in Peeblesshire.

The process of getting the grass field into the condition you see in the image above started back in summer 2021, when a forage crop mixture of hybrid, kale and stubble turnip was sown.

Prior to that, the field was sprayed off with glyphosate and, through the advisory service at McCreath Simpson & Prentice (MSP), we conducted soil sampling. This helped to ensure that the appropriate fertiliser and lime was applied on the field through the MSP fertiliser department.

The farmer had two objectives when sowing the forage crop:

  • For their livestock to graze over the winter
  • To use the livestock to break down the old turf

Because this grassland hadn’t been improved before, the forage crop was also sown to reduce the risk of leatherjackets. The crane fly (daddy long legs) lays its larvae on grass at the end of the year – but not on forage crops. By breaking the reproductive cycle, it helped to lessen the risk of pest damage as there is no real insecticide on the market just now to control leatherjackets

After 12-14 weeks of forage crop growth, the livestock entered the field to graze it off. In doing so, it helped to improve the soil structure and nutrition so that this year, the same direct drill could sow the grass seed into a fine seedbed with residuals left behind by the grazing animals as opposed to thatchy turf.

During the spring, the forage crop stubbles had a flush of weeds, so the farmer sought some glyphosate from our agrochemicals department, which helped to create a stale seedbed before the sowing of the grass seed.

The farmer opted for our Endurance Upland mixture – a long-term mixture suitable for both cattle and sheep that will last for more than ten years – and the field is now almost ready for grazing for their lambs once they have been spaned from their mothers.

This clean, young grass will provide much higher levels of digestibility and sugars for the lambs than the old turf, ensuring they are receiving the best possible nutrition, which will likely lead to a faster daily liveweight gain. It’s also important to note that the young grass will utilise applications of fertiliser much better going forward.

It’s true that it has taken a while from spraying off the field in summer 2021, to having this field of young grass in summer 2022, but the farmer has been impressed with the results, so much so that they plan to replicate what has been done in this field into others from year-to-year.

If you’re interested in our forage crop options? Contact your local Farm Trader today or send us an email at grass-seed@mspagriculture.co.uk.

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