Fane Valley Feeds Focus On Grass At AFBI
20th April 2017

Fane Valley Feeds Technical and Sales Teams pictured with Dr Debbie McConnell, AFBI Hillsborough during a recent visit to discuss grazing management.

During a recent trip to AFBI Hillsborough, the Fane Valley Feeds Technical and Sales Teams gained valuable experience from Dr Debbie McConnell in measuring and budgeting grass. This recent training and our investment in plate meters and on-farm NIR Analysers which can provide instant grass nutrient analysis, allows us the ability to assist in increasing grass growth and utilisation on farms.

Dr McConnell explained that; “Northern Ireland data illustrates that milk from forage has reduced over the last 15 years and we have the ability to grow excellent quality grass, therefore, it makes sense to maximise its production potential and utilisation. Each extra tonne of grass grown per hectare can increase profitability by £441/ha in dairy herds and £204/ha in beef herds provided this grass is utilised”.

“Data from GrassCheck illustrates that measuring grass growth can identify major variations between paddocks with growth varying between 5t DM/ha to 20t DM/ha. The ability to identify underperforming paddocks and implementing sward improvements will dramatically increase growth and the potential for utilisation which is key to farm efficiency. However this is only possible by measuring grass growth and availability” explains Dr McConnell. “Creating a grass budget is necessary to ensure grass quality remains high during peak grass growth periods and the easiest way to ensure supply does not exceed demand. Where there is an oversupply of grass, paddocks should be removed for silage” continues Dr McConnell.

With grass quality varying significantly between farms, ensuring that grass is grazed at the correct stage will determine the level of milk production that grass can support. Research at AFBI Hillsborough illustrates that the most profitable scenario is to adopt a “medium” level of production from grass with the expectation of approximately 19 litres in April/May and gradually reducing to 10 litres in the autumn (dependent on grass quality and grazing conditions). Dr McConnell explained that this more moderate assumption from grass produced higher milk yields, higher milk components, improved margin over purchased feeds and improved cow body condition compared to higher assumptions.

Key Points for Increasing Grass Growth and Utilisation:

  1. Measure grass covers and graze young, leafy swards to ensure intakes are of the highest quality, maximising milk production from grazed grass. Paddocks should be grazed tightly to boost regrowth and quality in the next rotation.
  2. Identify grass surpluses early by creating a grass budget and remove paddocks with very high covers for silage.
  3. Test grass quality (available using our NIR Forage Analyser) and do not over-estimate milk from grazed grass as this will have implications for body condition score, milk quality and reproductive performance.

Fane Valley Feeds realises the potential benefits of grazing for dairy farmers and have invested in the ability to assist with grass production and utilisation. If you require any further information or advice, please contact your local Fane Valley Feeds Sales Representative or Dr Hazel Gilmore on 07714950584 or Matthew Armstrong on 07714950585.