20 February 1998

High sward production

GRASS growth rates over the last week have been three to four times higher than average – at 15 to 20kg DM/ha/day compared with 5kg, according to farmers around the country taking grass measurements, writes New Zealand consultant Paul Bird.

These growth rates are being achieved on farms as a result of:

&#8226 Grass being carried through the winter resulting in average grass covers of 1800 to 2000kg DM/ha. Higher grass covers lead to higher grass growth rates due to the grass grows grass principle.

&#8226 Applied nitrogen in late January early February.

&#8226 High soil temperatures – 8-10C (46.4-50F).

A pasture analysis on Feb 12 from one farm in Wiltshire indicates excellent quality for grazing. Dry matter was 23.3% leading to high dry matter intakes a cow. The quality of this sample was excellent, predominantly green leaf carried over from October-November grass growth. Fresh, new grass growth is, however, expected to have a lower dry matter than this – in the order of 15%.

Winter kill did not occur on farms carrying grass over winter, with high covers, to many peoples surprise, giving producers more confidence in the future to continue with the basic principles of extended grazing.

Those farms that have had sheep over the winter have grass cover of 1100kg DM/ha to 1300kg DM/ha and as a result will have grass growth well below potential over the rest of February and into March.

Conference call

Dont miss the BGS grazing conferences next week – the theme is making profit at 20p/litre. Speakers will include top UK and Irish farmers and consultants. Dates are Feb 24,Cumbria and Feb 25, Staffordshire. Contact BGS on (01189-318189).