Niall Treanor, B&T Drystock Adviser, Teagasc Galway/Clare, has urged farmers to consider reseeding fields that have not performed as best that they could have.
He said mixed ground conditions are sure to have left some fields “a little worse for wear where cattle have been let out”.
“Reseeding is a considerable investment at €200-300/acre, so it’s worth making sure that it is done right,” he commented.
He advises farmers to assess pastures before taking a particular course of action. He acknowledged that deciding on when to reseed an old sward or pasture can be difficult.
“In some cases where the grass proportion of the sward still contains a high proportion of ‘desirable’ ryegrass, then the sward may be improved by a change of management.”
“As a pasture ages, the composition of it changes, and this change may be slowed down or accelerated according to management.”
According to Treanor, reseeding has several benefits, whether it is for the dairy farmer or the beef farmer.
- Help to increase the amount of grass that is grown;
- Also, help to lengthen the growing season;
- Generate higher levels of energy and protein.
“These benefits can lead to more days at grass, more milk and better growth rates in cattle, which will help to put more money in your pocket.”
What fields should I reseed?
The Teagasc advisor provided the following advice:
When deciding on reseeding, carry out a field inspection ideally in March or April; walk through the field/paddock and access the sward in at least ten different areas.
Check for a percentage of open ground, ryegrass, and other grasses/weeds.
Furthermore, access both the grazing and silage cutting areas, as action to be taken can be very different. A good pasture should have little or no open spaces; however, a small amount of space of less than 5% can be tolerated for tetraploids.
For intensive grassland farming, pastures should contain greater than 60% ryegrass.
Ryegrass is less persistent under silage harvesting when cut below 5 cm, harvest date or if the fertility status of the soil (N, P, K, Ph.) is low.
“Many unsown grass species are abundant in awards, especially in long-term pastures. All of these unsown species are much less productive and are much poorer in terms of digestibility than perennial ryegrass e.g. creeping bentgrass.”
“The main characteristics by which any grass can be judged are productivity – both yield and growth habit, palatability, persistence and time of growth.
“If there is an increased amount of creeping bent and Yorkshire fog present, silage yields could be reduced by as much as 25% as both have a higher proportion of stem than perennial ryegrass and low soluble sugar levels.”
“If weed grasses make up more than 30% of the sward, the yield and quality will certainly suffer. Any silage sward with less than 50% ryegrass in spring may need to be considered to be reseeded.
Farmers carry out less than half of total reseeding in spring. Stocking rates are generally high in spring, ground is closed for silage, reducing the area for grazing and a couple of recent dry May/ June over the last couple of years need to be taken into account before taking ground out for reseeding.
The stocking rate is lower in autumn than spring since little or no land is being cut for silage. “All going well, spring reseeding gives the opportunity to get a couple of grazings in during the summer months when ground conditions are more favourable than the autumn.”
“If clover is being incorporated, then reseeding should be completed before the third week of August at the very latest. Clover needs to be sown early as it takes about 8 – 10 weeks to establish properly.”
Once you have identified why and when you are reseeding a particular paddock/field, establish soil fertility, select your reseeding method, and prepare the ground. Ensure good post-sowing management such as knowing when to graze, spread Nitrogen, cut silage and control weeds and pests.