Quality grazing of grass leys relies on good grazing management by keeping the plants leafy and actively growing while matching the supply of the livestock needs. Utilisation of grass is often below 50% but can be up to 80% with good management.
Calculating utilised dry matter (UDM) can offer a quick guide to the forage dry matter that the animal actually uses per hectare. Expensive equipment is not required to assess the grass growth, walking he paddocks and checking growth will help assess grass stocks. Using the ForFarmers sward stick will measure yield. These measurements if collated, will provide an annual total for each field.
How animals are managed on grazing leys can have a major impact on forage production and persistence as well as animal production. Stocking rates, grazing management system and grazing intensity can all have an influence on the level of animal output.
Grazing grass at approx. 2,700kgDM/ha down to residuals of approx. 1,600kg/DM/ha keeps the grass at its optimal range for growth. Grazing below 1,600kgDM/ha will slow regrowth and lose valuable growing days.
Perennial ryegrass only ever has three live leaves. As the fourth leaf starts to grow the first and oldest leaf dies. Grazing too early, before a new second leaf appears can damage the grass persistency. Repetitive early grazing can permanently decrease pasture yield and persistence. Grazing too late will allow new tillers to grow but older tillers die off. Dead material, with little feed value will build up in the base of the sward.
To achieve the correct grazing levels and provide maximum quality grazing the grass leys must not include weed grasses. A regular re-seeding or overseeding plan must be maintained.
As shown the productivity of a grass ley decreases over time:
|Age of ley
Source: AHDB Dairy *Milk at 25p/litre
If the grass ley is to be used solely as a grazing platform the species in the mix must be suitable solely for this requirement. By selecting a recommended listed grass mix you will benefit from scientifically proven yield benefits and allows you to capitalise on the strengths of different species. Clover can be selected to help fix nitrogen. The recommended list also allows to select varieties based on disease resistance and persistence. Mixes can be selected not just on individual farm requirements but also for individual paddocks according to site, soil and aspect.
ForFarmers Dairygen Intensive grazing mix is designed for those pursuing more production from grazed grass. A combination of more milk from DLF fibre energy and Aber HSG grasses. With the inclusion of 65% diploid perennial it will ensure extreme sward density and helps reduce poaching. Hipast perennial tall fescue provides grazing yield but has persistency and stress tolerance and is better suited to dry and wet conditions than standard ryegrasses.