Dock control is an ongoing problem

Having inherited a large population of docks in his grassland, Howard Quayle is faced with a continual battle against them, he told summer meeting visitors.

He runs his Ballavitchel Aberdeen Angus and IOM Limousin pedigree herds, as well as 60 commercial cows, on two ex-dairy farms and has had limited success with controlling docks.

In 2000, the worst areas were ploughed and cropped with winter barley, he said. After harvest they were reseeded with a seven-year ley and it appeared that all the docks had gone. But despite no slurry being spread, docks are now back and Mr Quayle’s herbicide bill tops 3000 a year.

Visiting grassland researchers said that allowing cattle to graze silage ground before shutting it up is creating open areas in the sward where docks can easily germinate and gain a foothold. But Mr Quayle likes to get the stock out of buildings early to reduce the disease risk and cows and calves do well on spring grass.

“We are not looking for rocket fuel silage. We need one big bulky crop – 30-38t/ha at 70 D-value, so don’t need to cut until July.”

However, permanent pasture near the farm buildings has been successfully rejuvenated producing a dense sward which gives docks less chance to establish. After grazing at turnout, grass harrows are used to pull out any dead material.

The sward is then over seeded with an Opico drill with a tetraploid/clover mix at 125kg/ha (50kg/acre) and top dressed with nitrogen fertiliser later in spring.