BGS SETS UP PROJECT

31 January 1997




BGS SETS UP PROJECT

The British Grassland Society hopes to launch an initiative this year to improve use of grazed grass on farms. BGS president Jerry Rider outlines what this new project hopes to achieve


WE, as farmers, must adopt a focussed approach to grassland management this coming season, to obtain a quality product of sufficient quantity to benefit both our livestock and our pockets.

We must strive to obtain a bigger percentage of milk and meat from grazed grass: Our natural and cheapest resource. And in so doing we pamper to a fickle public perception that ruminants must graze. No one denies that grass can be difficult to manage and needs regular attention – unlike maize which you sow, spray, walk away from, and then harvest.

Remember, grass is sexy. The Pamela Andersons and rabbits of the world cannot compete with grass and its reproductive activity. Birth control measures must be applied throughout the season to prevent seeding by using the grazing animal and/or the mowing machine.

To use grass most efficiently, an early start must be made with grazing, preferably on a rotational basis. This system is easier to manage, especially for dairy cows. Try and integrate grazing and silage making, rather than have one piece for land for grazing and another for silage. Farm layout may make this difficult, but remember cows are able to walk quite long distances to pasture provided they have good legs and feet, and you have adequate cow tracks.

Why bother with all this hassle? A phone call and a signed cheque would secure a load of palatable concentrates, while the cows could stand around all day in a bare "grass" paddock next to the parlour and you could make more silage and feed them indoors. But why mechanise the cow when she is an efficient forage harvester-cum-slurry spreader, and machinery is an investment in rust? Moreover, your friendly bank manager will tell you that 1t of grazed grass dry matter is one-third the cost of 1t of silage DM, and one-seventh the cost of 1t of concentrate. Also, in the world market situation post-GATT and in the 21st century, competitive New Zealand producers will market their milk at 10p/litre.

Remember that in the Rugby World Cup semi-final in South Africa in 1995, Jonah Lomu and the rest of the New Zealand All Blacks ran all over the England Team. We cant afford to let that happen to us UK dairy farmers. To ensure it doesnt, the British Grassland Society is putting to-gether a project with ADAS, Genus and the Scottish Agricul-tural College. This involves bringing over two NZ Consulting Officers to follow up on the great work that Mark Blackwell did in 1996, but they will cover more of the UK. Hopefully, the project will run for the next two years and will use the on-farm discussion group principle that worked so well in 1996.

However, we intend to run the programme during 10 meetings over the year with a target of increasing the proportion of grazed grass in the ruminant diet. There is no intention of altering anyones system. Just a little tweaking to enhance performance and profitability. We also intend to set up a series of monitor farms, to collect data and demonstrate techniques which participating discussion groups members can visit. These farms will also enable FW, for example, to publish grass growth rates on a regular basis from commercial farms spread over the UK on different soil and climatic sites.

There will also be a research programme looking at grazing systems, with or without supplementation, for high genetic merit cows and this work will be done on a wet and a dry site in the UK.

That is all that can be said at the moment – but hopefully it is enough to wet your appetite so that when the project is approved by the relevant parties involved, you will be able to sign up with your nearest discussion group and – for a modest fee – take part in a very stimulating series of meetings.

FW will be launching the project and the names and addresses of the discussion groups taking part.n

WE, as farmers, must adopt a focussed approach to grassland management this coming season, to obtain a quality product of sufficient quantity to benefit both our livestock and our pockets.

We must strive to obtain a bigger percentage of milk and meat from grazed grass: Our natural and cheapest resource. And in so doing we pamper to a fickle public perception that ruminants must graze. No one denies that grass can be difficult to manage and needs regular attention – unlike maize which you sow, spray, walk away from, and then harvest.

Remember, grass is sexy. The Pamela Andersons and rabbits of the world cannot compete with grass and its reproductive activity. Birth control measures must be applied throughout the season to prevent seeding by using the grazing animal and/or the mowing machine.

To use grass most efficiently, an early start must be made with grazing, preferably on a rotational basis. This system is easier to manage, especially for dairy cows. Try and integrate grazing and silage making, rather than have one piece for land for grazing and another for silage. Farm layout may make this difficult, but remember cows are able to walk quite long distances to pasture provided they have good legs and feet, and you have adequate cow tracks.

Why bother with all this hassle? A phone call and a signed cheque would secure a load of palatable concentrates, while the cows could stand around all day in a bare "grass" paddock next to the parlour and you could make more silage and feed them indoors. But why mechanise the cow when she is an efficient forage harvester-cum-slurry spreader, and machinery is an investment in rust? Moreover, your friendly bank manager will tell you that 1t of grazed grass dry matter is one-third the cost of 1t of silage DM, and one-seventh the cost of 1t of concentrate. Also, in the world market situation post-GATT and in the 21st century, competitive New Zealand producers will market their milk at 10p/litre.

Remember that in the Rugby World Cup semi-final in South Africa in 1995, Jonah Lomu and the rest of the New Zealand All Blacks ran all over the England Team. We cant afford to let that happen to us UK dairy farmers. To ensure it doesnt, the British Grassland Society is putting to-gether a project with ADAS, Genus and the Scottish Agricul-tural College. This involves bringing over two NZ Consulting Officers to follow up on the great work that Mark Blackwell did in 1996, but they will cover more of the UK. Hopefully, the project will run for the next two years and will use the on-farm discussion group principle that worked so well in 1996.

However, we intend to run the programme during 10 meetings over the year with a target of increasing the proportion of grazed grass in the ruminant diet. There is no intention of altering anyones system. Just a little tweaking to enhance performance and profitability. We also intend to set up a series of monitor farms, to collect data and demonstrate techniques which participating discussion groups members can visit. These farms will also enable FW, for example, to publish grass growth rates on a regular basis from commercial farms spread over the UK on different soil and climatic sites.

There will also be a research programme looking at grazing systems, with or without supplementation, for high genetic merit cows and this work will be done on a wet and a dry site in the UK.

That is all that can be said at the moment – but hopefully it is enough to wet your appetite so that when the project is approved by the relevant parties involved, you will be able to sign up with your nearest discussion group and – for a modest fee – take part in a very stimulating series of meetings.

FW will be launching the project and the names and addresses of the discussion groups taking part.n


GRASS USE PROJECT


&#8226 Maximising use of grazed grass lifts profits.

&#8226 Need for UK to improve useof grazed grass.

&#8226 New Zealand consultants will demonstrate how.

&#8226 Use of UK-wide on-farm discussion meetings.


Upcoming webinar

What does the future of farming look like post Covid-19 and Brexit?

Register now
See more