Mid-season management to maximise  forage production

Mid-season management to maximise forage production

Mid-season management of grass is key to making sure the full potential of forage is achieved and adequate reserves are available for the winter months.

Monitoring grass regularly and making sure there is enough grass for four to five weeks in advance is vital.
In mid-season, farmers can make decisions to improve their forage position. This includes:

1. Maximise grass yields, quality and use

Applying fertiliser straight after grazing may be necessary to ensure speedy regrowth. The correct balance of nitrogen, phosphate, potash and sulphur must be applied to silage aftermaths for another cut of silage.

Nitrogen is the main driver of growth. But don't forget each tonne of silage removes 10 units of potash. Additional sulphur in the after-cut fertiliser can lift silage yields by up to 30%.

Soil testing and understanding grass nutrient requirements are key.

Going forward soil testing for carbon reserves will become more popular as it is likely farmers will be rewarded for maximising plant growth and increasing carbon reserves in the soil.

2. Weed control

As growing conditions improve, the downside is yield and quality depriving weeds will also take advantage and when left unchecked can cause serious losses to production.

Now could be a good time to control dock infestations in silage fields. Allow two weeks for regrowth after cutting and then apply an effective herbicide such as Doxstar Pro.

June is also the right time to tackle post-emergence weed control in maize. Maize is an extremely poor competitor to weeds, so it is vital to address them.

3. Assess grassland performance

Monitoring grass performance should be continuous, as good quality grassland is one of the main drivers to farm profitability. When poor performing swards have been identified for reseeding there are various ways to go about it. They include:

  • Overseeding in June/July with Mole Valley Farmers' ProNitro (fertiliser coated) renovation mixtures
  • Making use of a brassica crop as a break between old grass and reseeding in the autumn
  • Burning off old grass in July/August and doing a conventional reseed after ploughing and cultivation

Our Mole Valley Farmers’ Premier Ley Grass Seed Catalogue contains all the information on correct variety choice as well as useful tips on achieving the best establishment and performance from your new ley.

4. Manage mid-season shortfalls

Grass growth naturally declines mid-season and when combined with a dry period, can cause serious problems with grass shortages. The important thing is to manage this expected shortfall by planning to release more grazing acres when needed from silage fields. Fertilising four to five weeks in advance of the dry spell will ensure greater grass availability.

Making use of brassicas, which can be grazed six to seven weeks after sowing is a relatively cheap and cost-effective way of alleviating mid-season forage shortages. Buffer feeding of conserved forages may also be needed in exceptionally dry spells. Having ample stocks of forage in the pit is vital.

The aim should be to conserve 15% to 20% more silage than you need to get through these challenging times.

Your actions in June will put you on a good platform to make the most of home-grown forage through the year.

For more information or advice on any aspect of forage production, please contact the Mole Valley Farmers Seed Line on 01769 576232.