Webinar: Choosing the right grass mixtures

Join Ben Wixey and William Fleming as they host the next in Germinal's webinar series covering how to select the right grass mixtures.

Ben and William will discuss agricultural species; herbs and clovers, tetraploids and diploids; the importance of heading dates; and they'll take a look at the recommended lists.

Webinar Q & A

If I want to extend the grazing season as far as possible, which varieties should I choose?

Use the Recommended Grass and Clover List (RGCL) to select varieties by their seasonal growth under grazing management. Early spring/spring, late summer and autumn - for example, AberDart, AberZeus, AberGreen from the intermediate group and AberBann and AberGain from the lates.  Management can help with spring growth but closing covers in good time i.e October.

Are there any Perennial Rygrass (PRG) varieties that grow better than others under low nitrogen input regimes?

They did carry out trials on variable N applications across all the RGCL varieties. While yields were lower, they did all express themselves in the same way, so yield ranking stayed the same at higher levels. However, if you are running a low input system, you might consider including some fescues and timothy, some clovers, and perhaps some herbs.

Suggested inclusion rate for cocksfoot seed?

Approx. 3 - 4 kgs per acre

What would be your grazing interval on cocksfoot?

Cocksfoot is best grazed when the leaf is young, so fairly hard intensive grazing - around 15 days, in peak season.

Inclusion rate of festolium from PRG in a grazing ley?

A. We are actually doing some work on the optimum inclusion rate - while AberRoot, the new perennial ryegrass/meadow fescue has excellent quality, it's yields are similar to the diploid perennials, so we'd propose including it at the same rate as any other variety, i.e., 3 - 4kgs depending on your circumstances.

Thoughts on Italian Ryegrass (IRG) herbicide resistance?

The issue is grass weed control in the following crops, particularly cereals. It’s becoming a bigger problem than resistance in Blackgrass. John Cussans of NIAB has some information on the increasing issue. There is no herbicide resistance in PRG or hybrids.” - John Fairey, Germinal Seed Production Manager.

What is the best blend of seeds required in an overseed mix in Ayrshire, South West Scotland, where we have mild wet winters and more than our share of rain throughout the rest of the year?

Depending on the duration required, focus tetraploids, shorter-term - use hybrids and perhaps some intermediate tets and even IRGs.  For the longer-term use intermediate and late tetraploids. Always remember to get it grazed down as tight as possible – seed to soil contact is critical and removing the competition from existing plants.

With the figures on nitrogen application and milk production, would there not be a benefit in having a no N plot as 150 kg N is taking out the effect of the clover unless we’re saying the sward needs 300kg of total N?

It would have been interesting to have a zero N as a comparison yes, the work was done in Ireland, so it will be interesting to see if they go as far as zero N.

What amount of N are you recommending in a spring reseed?

60kg is a basic rule of thumb, although it does depend on your Soil Mineral N status and previous crops.  I would apply it to the seedbed also.

Are phytoestrogen figures from pure stands of red clover or in a mixed sward?

It is relevant to how much they eat, and ewes can selectively graze it – so, it does depend to a certain extent on inclusion rate, but it could happen with a mixed sward yes

What protein levels will you get in pure red clover silage?

Typically we see protein levels of high teens and low twenties. It is important to remember this is Digestible Undegradable Protein (DUP) - bypass protein, so more is available than with grass only.

Any comments on stitching in white and red clover in the absence of clover safe chemicals? What is a typical Nitrogen regime in a red clover ley?

I think many farmers set off with the intention of stitching in clovers post establishment when they have had a chance to clean the ley up but in practice, it doesn’t seem to happen that much. The difference in cost of with and without clover is usually just £2 to £3, so sometimes it is worth the risk to start with clover in. If they are sticking in post establishment then go immediately after the first cut or hard grazing. You still need to make sure the ley is fairly open (maybe drill rather than broadcast), so there should be some room for the clover.

Can you sow a white clover ley straight after a red clover ley? Are there any issues?

Yes, while they are both legumes, white clover doesn’t suffer from the same pests and diseases, so it is a suitable break.

If you left the plantain to grow, would it eventually become bananas?

We have never seen this happen, particularly in our climate. These are specifically bred and improved varieties for agricultural use, so they remain leafy and palatable throughout the season.

Is there a benefit to including a herbal ley as a part of a rotation or would it be better and more effective as a whole rotation?

The herbal is the sort of mixture you might use for finish lambs, or growing cattle, as part of a rotation to help improve soil structure – so it might be best used as part of a rotation.  Bear in mind that herbal leys are often unproductive in winter and you do need to allow a period of adaptation for stock.

In a grazing mix, are red clover rotation issues reduced compared to mono?

The risk of pest and disease build-up is less, so it depends on the inclusion rate. For example, if your sward had 3kgs of red clover and it had grown good crops, we would advise you should give it the appropriate break.

Can plantain and chicory be grown together on their own or do both have to be included in a mix?

They can be grown together on their own, but there would be very little winter growth, therefore they are most commonly used in a mix with grasses.  The grass also provides a different source of energy as well as improved ground cover and over-wintering.

I want to plant a hay mix this spring. I would like a crop ready to harvest later this season and am only looking for two to three years. With the weather patterns changing so much would you use a different mix for spring planting to Autumn planting?

Westerwold will crop this season, but it is an annual grass, a blend of IRGs and Hybrids will persist for 3 years, but it is quite a leafy growth.

When is the best time of year to sow a red clover?

Warm soils are key to successful plant numbers – so at 8 - 10 in spring – depending on where you are in the country, then for successful establishment give yourself a cut-off date of mid-August with 10 days either way, depending on your location.

In a cutting mixture that is being grazed in early spring would an all-late heading mix be better from a digestibility and yield point if cutting mid-June?

Yes, it would be as long as those varieties have good enough spring growth to meet your requirements at that time.

When you talk about specific heading dates (for example, the 24th of May), which day are you assuming the grass is sown?

Heading dates are taken during the year after establishment, so perennials do not head in the year of sowing, the average dates are taken at 50% ear emergence, so you can just see the seed head in the tillers.  

If spraying for docks in year three do you put clover in?

You could do it if the sward was open enough oversow with clover. if you mean you need to spray after 3 years for docks, well those two-plus years of clover benefits that you have had. So, we would suggest you include clover at the sowing of the initial new ley.

Have improvements in D-value come at a cost of poorer ground cover/persistency in today's mixtures.

We don’t really see any evidence that the newer varieties have reduced persistency. In fact, AberZeus and AberGreen have better winter hardiness and disease resistance than AberDart, a variety you will have used a lot over the years. Likewise, AberBann and AberLee are superior to AberAvon.  The tetraploids would be similar. We believe that management practices have changed. For example, slurry is often injected on trailing shoe which has a greater effect than the old splash plate behind a farmers own slurry tanker, the equipment is also now much bigger, even if they do use low ground pressure tyres.

In grazing monoculture do you think red clover would involve easier management versus lucerne?

Balancing the ration for grazing sheep with either monoculture red clover or lucerne is very important as both crops are high protein and an adequate energy source to balance the protein is vital. The lucerne will give more flexibility as there is no Phytooestrogen effect on the breeding ewes. The red clover is perhaps easier to get good utilisation as I think they might eat the stem more readily, but in both crops you would need to make sure they didn’t graze into the crown.  

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