Chloe Cross on Grassland Management

May 17, 2019

First rate grassland management is a frequently under rated tool when producing livestock.

Many of you will have met Chloe when she’s lead the Practical Cost Management workshop of The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme. We asked Chloe for her top tips on managing your grassland – and improving the efficiency of your livestock production.

We often look at total energy and protein content from bought-in feeds but forget that our major assets and first port of call is already at our finger tips.

We can all put grass seed in the ground and begin to graze livestock but the difference between a first-class operation and an average system is how much we can rely on the grass to grow the livestock without using an uneconomical quantity of concentrates. Fortunately, the science of growing grass doesn’t differ from any other crop, nor does it differ for the area of the country it is grown in. Grassland requires water, sunlight, warmth and good management. This final point makes all the difference.

To begin, review your grass; identify what are you trying to achieve? How many animals do you need to feed? For what period of time? What growth rates can we achieve?

Although simple questions, the outcomes are drastically different; a 9,000litre Holstein is going to need more energy in her feed than a 60kg hogget! Incorrect management, we risk under or over feeding, either way it is not very efficient.

You may need to start with the basics. Digging soil profiles is the best way to know what you’re dealing with, after all if you’ve got cold, blueish soils you can’t really expect grass to grow happily in a badly aerated environment. Your findings may lead you to the decision to re-seed and revitalise the pasture. There is exceptional information out there to ensure you put the best grass seed mixtures in the ground for your unique situation, so do be sure to do some research before you commit to the same old bags of seed as you’ve always used.

Reseeding grasses may seem expensive, but getting the right varieties in the ground could save you buying additional feed later down the line.

Follow a simple checklist to put you in a good starting point;

  • Test soil for nutrient status and pH
    Lime will help reduce the effect of acidity as the old sward decomposes
    Target pH should be 6.5, below 6 and nutrient uptake is seriously reduced
    Apply N, P & K to the seedbed depending on soil indices
  • Check for compaction
    Dig a hole to see how deep the problem is
    Shallow compaction can be taken out with the cultivations, deeper problems will need a sub-soiler

Grasses are a huge topic, and as our industry focuses more heavily on the efficacy of livestock production, it’s the perfect time to start making the more of what your farm has to offer.

For more information or guidance, we can put you in touch with Chloe – just email the team.