ARE YOU GETTING THE MOST FROM YOUR GRASS

3rd May 2022

By Paddy Jack, Account Manager DLF Trifolium

Scottish agriculture is facing many challenges in 2022, with higher input costs, less certainty on output prices, attacks on ruminant livestock farming for its green credentials and complications arising from    political decisions. East Coast Viners Animal Nutrition are in a great place to help you face these challenges and make your farm business better and more resilient. Working alongside our grass seed supply partner, DLF Seeds in Edinburgh, we are able to offer grass and clover mixtures which can help overcome some of the hurdles that farmers are increasingly having to jump over.

Ruminant animals are designed to chew the cud and convert complex plant fibre into useful energy and then into meat and milk. All plants grow towards reproductive maturity, it is nature after all, so we need to manage this to get the best outcome for our livestock systems. By breeding grass varieties that keep their fibre in digestible forms for longer than conventional varieties, we allow ruminants to break down cellulose and hemi-cellulose, before the fibre turns to lignin – which animals cannot breakdown. Mature hay and straw are examples of highly ligneous fibre feedstuffs, while young leafy grazing grass and leafy silage are examples of plant fibre with very little indigestible fibre. DLF Fibre Energy varieties are bred to have more of this accessible fibre than other varieties, which means that each bite of grass or silage has the ability to yield more meat or milk than less digestible varieties.

Look out for the DLF FIBER ENERGY logo to be sure you are feeding better bred grasses.

Nitrogen is a fundamental requirement for plant growth. This can of course come from decaying    organic matter, bagged fertiliser or leguminous plants, which have the ability to work with soil borne bacteria to fix atmospheric nitrogen into plant utilisable forms of nitrogen. To maximise this use of “air borne” nitrogen the root structures need to grow in good, open soils that can hold air pockets.       Legumes cannot fix nitrogen if the soil has no air in it so water logged or slumped soils will always produce poor results for legumes. UK soils and climate are better suited to white and red clover growth than many other legumes so they represent the best options for grass plants to be grown with companion clovers. Consider using red clovers for 2 or 3 year silage swards, and for fattening stock later in the season. Lambs regularly put on 300 grams/head/day on red clover aftermaths. Silage from ECV’s Protein Plus red clover mixture will typically have a protein of 15 to 20%, and can be cut 2, 3 or even 4 times per year with no requirement for nitrogen fertiliser after establishment. White clover will also contribute to silage yields but is probably more often seen in grazing situations. ForageMax Meat & Milk is a tremendous dual purpose mixture with 6% white clover inclusion, along with 100%  other SRUC Class 1 grass and clover varieties. This is our biggest selling mixture and is well suited to the harsher climate that the north and north-east of  Scotland frequently faces. Similarly our permanent pasture mixture also has 6% white clover and a slightly higher timothy inclusion for early bite, sward density, tolerance of wet and cold and long-term  persistence.

If you are farming free draining soil, with a high pH, you may want to consider growing Lucerne (Alfalfa). Once it is established it is a high protein forage crop which brings many soil benefits for subsequent crops. The root system is superb, allowing the Alfalfa plant to harvest nutrients and water from a much bigger area.

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