Re-seed with brassicas to boost forage stocks

Farmers running low on forage stocks could buy themselves some time and improve forage yields by re-seeding damaged pastures with brassica crops this spring.

Paul Billings from British Seed Houses says grassland damage is widespread after heavy rain, and predicts many farmers could be left with a number of fields to re-seed.

But he says replacing leys with a break crop, after taking the first cut of silage, could give livestock producers an extended period to address problems and provide stock with additional nutrition.

“Forage stocks are already low and most people will be desperate for their first cut,” he says.

But rather than re-sowing ground in the spring and losing three months of production at peak season, he suggests direct-drilling fields with forage crops in late May or early June to boost dry matter production.

Farmers could then plough and re-seed brassica fields with good quality grasses later in the autumn.

Mr Billings says fast-establishing crops such as stubble turnips or hybrid brassicas are ideal varieties.

“They will provide 5t/DM/ha and will be ready for strip grazing within eight weeks,” he explains.

Meanwhile he says producers with a large number of problem fields this year should consider combining a variety of methods.

“If you have got 200 acres of grass and 100 acres has got problems, take out the worst, re-seed some with brassica and over-seed some with grass. That way you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket.”

Sowing grass into established grass leys prolongs its life expectancy, but it is only a short-term fix.

However he warns over-seeding won’t suit everyone, and says farmers should dig a hole and assess soil structure before deciding on the next course of action.

“If you have an underlying soil problem, such as compaction, over-seeding isn’t going to solve it. You have got to have plenty of grass canopy.”

Fields with less than 75% grass cover should be considered for a re-seed. He adds: “50% of cover should be made up of rye grass and root depth should penetrate 6-8 inches deep.”

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