Grass is the most economical feed source for livestock, however it is often taken for granted, warns Mel Digger. “Grass leys being used for sheep and beef production are usually down for a number of years, but it is important to manage reseeding or overseeding along with a fertiliser application programme to ensure that maximum productivity and quality is achieved to support farm profits. Taking the time and effort to review each ley can pay dividends.”
Any grass ley will deteriorate over time with weed species becoming more prominent, she says. Within a few years the amount of perennial ryegrass (sown species) will reduce and meadow grasses will increase. “This results in reduced yields as weed species are not as productive as the sown species, but quality is also much reduced.” On top of that, these encroaching weed species have a much lower response to nitrogen too.
There are numerous factors that can cause deterioration of a grass ley, explains Mel. “Soil fertility or issues with soil structure can play a part, as can overgrazing and even understocking. If a ley is not grazed enough excessive growth will prevent light from reaching the grass tillers of the new growth.” Other causes can include poaching and compaction, application of too much slurry and poor drainage, she adds.
If reseeding the ley is not an option then overseeding should be considered to improve the quality of the sward and help reduce weed grass ingress. “Overseeding is a lower cost option and quicker to implement than a total reseed. The field will be out of production for less time too,” says Mel. However, overseeding will only be successful if applied to a ley that is still in good production and where sown species are still the larger proportion of the ley.
Overseeding introduces new varieties to the current ley along with clover if required. Using TOPGRASS Leybooster overseeding mix brings the added benefit of the fertiliser coating, she adds. “Pronitro is a seed treatment – every seed is coated with nitrogen fertiliser to give it an extra boost with no need for fertiliser application in the first month. Pronitro supports improved establishment vigour at the most crucial stage in the overseeding process.”
Whatever approach is chosen - reseeding or overseeding – planning how and when it should be done is paramount, Mel concludes. “Soil testing will highlight any nutrient imbalance which can be rectified ready for reseeding.
“This, alongside routine maintenance will keep the sward in the best condition and ensure it continues to produce plenty of high-quality forage.”