The winner of this year’s Yara Grass Prix produced a staggering grass yield of 183,927MJ/ha and feed value of 17.7t/ha dry matter.
Dairy and sheep farmer Willie Watson took the top spot for Scotland, with English farmer Andy Gibbons and Welsh farmer Terry Clarke in second and third places, respectively.
Mr Watson runs 250 cows and 360 breeding ewes on 270ha at Muir Farm, Mauchline, Ayrshire. His grass yielded 50.1t/ha freshweight and had a value of £2,943/ha (compared with brewers’ grains).
A modest winner, Mr Watson says: “It has been an exceptional year for growing silage – warm and wet. When we needed rain, we got it.”
Mr Watson believes keeping soil at the correct pH and maintaining nutrient levels – particularly potash and phosphate – were key to his success. Soil, slurry and grass analysis with GPS testing and mapping ensured maximum grass output.
Using grass silage of such high value and quality as the basis of the dairy ration has had significant benefits on the farm, says Iain Wallace of ForFarmers (formerly BOCM Pauls) .
“You can improve cow health and save money on farm, which is important with milk price cuts,” says Mr Wallace.
By treating his grass as an arable crop, Mr Watson achieved a margin over fertiliser cost of £2,695, says Yara agronomist Jez Wardman.
“Compared with the average farm practice, which achieved £1,408/ha and a margin of £1,283, Mr Watson achieved an increased margin of £1,412/ha,” adds Mr Wardman.