19 June 1998

Dorset protein farmer and

maize recipe

Dairy producers are to be updated on MDC-funded research

in a series of meeting held throughout the country this year. Here Jessica Buss previews ADASs protein crop farm

meetings, while Allan Wright reports from one

of the first SACmeetings

FORAGE peas undersown with Italian ryegrass and red clover will produce a high protein silage to feed with maize at one MDC demonstration site.

Terrence Fox, who farms 55ha (135 acres) at Oaks Farm, Sturminster Newton, Dorset, is growing 5.7ha (14 acres) of Magnus peas undersown with Mole Valley Farmers Italian ryegrass and red clover mix. This will be one of nine MDC protein crop demonstration sites run by Axient and Mr Fox will host a farm walk on July 15 and in November.

Cheap to grow

"Forage peas are relatively cheap to grow, fix nitrogen reducing fertiliser costs, do not need much spraying because they are harvested before mildew takes hold and do not seem to suffer pests. They also leave nitrogen in the soil for the following crop and are good to feed with maize," says Mr Fox.

This is not his first year of growing forage peas for his 100-cow herd which averages 6000 litres a cow. Last year, he grew forage peas undersown with Italian ryegrass and white clover, and as cover crop for a reseed in the early 1980s.

Sown in March

Last years crop was sown in March and yielded an estimated 3-3.5t DM/ha (1.2-1.4t/acre) when it was harvested in late July. However, it included more grass than anticipated because of good growing conditions.

Cutting the crop turned out to be more difficult than Mr Fox expected. "It was difficult to mow with a disc mower, so we had to use a drum mower and drive on the crop before mowing it backwards," he says.

The crop was then picked up by a contractor who also applied sulphuric acid at 4 litres/t. "Peas will rot and protein will breakdown if they are not well preserved. But there was so much grass, which was high in sugar, we may not have needed the acid to ensure a good fermentation," he adds.

The crop was clamped in the silage pit between first and third cut grass silage, so it was fed in mid-winter – 50:50 with forage maize – using a forage box, along with 1kg of molasses a cow. He estimates the grass and pea silage averaged 20% crude protein. The high protein silage meant he only needed an 18% crude protein concentrate, fed in the parlour at 0.4kg/litre above 12 litres.

But he hopes using red clover will increase the protein in silage in the short and long term, and so reduce concentrate costs further by allowing him to buy lower protein feed.

Unfortunately this year the crop is less forward as the field, which had been grazed in early spring, was not ploughed before wet April weather, delaying cultivations. Drilling was, therefore, in mid-May instead of early April. Mr Fox is still waiting to see what impact this will have on the crop.

Sprayed off

Before drilling Mr Fox sprayed off and ploughed in the grass ley, subsoiled, and sprayed for wireworm. He sowed 100kg/ha (40kg/acre) of Magnus peas and 27kg/ha (11kg/acre) of the grass ley mix. The field also received 63kg/ha (50 units/acre) of N, P and K. He now plans to keep off the field until harvest as no further inputs should be needed.

The potential for forage peas and other protein crops will be discussed at the MDC protein crop open day in July.

Wet weather in April delayed drilling of the forage pea and Italian ryegrass/red clover ley until mid-May, says Terrence Fox.

MDC summer protein crop meetings

Site Crops Date

Cheshire Wheat/peas bi-cropping July 14

Gwynedd Wheat/peas bi-cropping July 16

Staffs Italian/red clover and soyabeans July 14

Devon Kale/barley July 15

Dorset Forage peas/red clover ley July 15

Cumbria Grazed and ensiled kale July 15

Dyfed Soyabeans July 16

Leics Soyabeans July 16

N Yorks Barley/peas July 15

MEETING AGENDA

&#8226 Introduction to the farm.

&#8226 Why grow protein crops?

&#8226 What crops can be grown.

&#8226 Growing and harvesting the crop on site.

&#8226 On-going research into protein crops.

&#8226 These meetings will be run by Axient, for details call 01270-536576.