For the Future of Farming

Grass sowing opportunities following maize

Afbeelding: Augustus KWS

Getting land back into production quickly after a maize harvest can be the difference between having a crop for the spring that can be utilized or having expensive land out of production for a period.

The sowing of a grass ley after maize can be extremely profitable as long as the correct choice is made.

What crop should follow maize?

If looking for a forage crop to establish after maize, then the choice of species is crucial.  Late sowing can be difficult for non-aggressive options, including clovers.

Aggressive, fast establishing grasses are best as they will get away well before winter sets in. Westerwolds grow in low temperatures and can provide a useful early bite in March or a first cut in mid April.

If looking for an option that will last longer than one year, then Italian ryegrass is a good choice. This species will give similar yields to Westerwolds, but offers the additional benefit of lasting for two years if required.

Both of these can be used alone or planted in a mix

Either of these ryegrasses should be drilled or broadcast as soon as possible, and before the middle of October.

If looking for a green manure then a rye and vetch mix are a late season option which will give excellent overwinter cover and improve soil nutrient and organic matter levels dramatically. These can be drilled now and left in till late Spring.

As bare soil is vulnerable to soil erosion and nutrient leaching, planting the right species now is definitely the best way to prepare for winter.

We can offer the following for sowing after maize.

Italian Catch Crop (20Kg Bags) Sow at 12 – 16Kg / Acre

- Short term, highly productive Italian mix               

- 50 / 50 mix of tetraploids and diploids                               

- Rapid establishment

- Can be cut or grazed

Westerwolds Grass Seed (25Kg Bags) Sow at 10 – 16Kg /Acre

- Fastest establishing forage grass

- Can be in production from 8 weeks of sowing

- Suitable for cutting and grazing

- Highest yielding ryegrass

- When sown in autumn offers good winter cover and has very early spring growth which is good for weed suppression

- Often sown into maize stubble after harvest

As it is not advised to sow clover after September and certainly when frosts are around we can still supply our standard mixtures without clover. However, it is important to note that late sowing of grass may not have the opportunity to get established. 

Seed variety

As well as requiring fast growing and high yielding grass, Chris also needs the grass grown to have high sugar and digestibility content , to help support his feeding system.

“In the winter I don’t feed any TMR or maize, I just feed out block cut grass silage into ring feeders and then top up with concentrates in the parlour,” explained Chris. “As such, I need to be growing high sugar, highly digestible grasses to ensure that the silage and grazing has a high enough energy content to help support good levels of milk production.”

For the initial 13 acres of grassland that was identified for reseeding, Chris considered a number of options before selecting a high performance, medium term cut and graze grass seed mix.

“I talked to ForFarmers Sales Manager, Ben Trott who does the nutrition on the farm and Forage Specialist, Louise Woolacott,” continued Chris. “After consulting with them, I decided to try the ForFarmers TOPGRASS Intogen seed mix and I reseeded the ley in late April.”

Boost in grass production

Contractors took their first cut from the newly reseeded ley in June 2016 and Chris has been happy with the improvements to the ley’s performance. This initial success has helped confirm that wide spread reseeding is the correct longer-term strategy for him to take at Waterford.

“The grass got established quickly which was good as it meant that the early growth suppressed most of the weeds,” explained Chris. “Compared to the other older leys that hadn’t been reseeded, we got very good yields from this 13 acre block and even when the grass was down after cutting, after only two days, the regrowth was starting to come up through the cut grass.”

“As a farmer, you are always looking to make the most of inputs and make sure that everything works as efficiently as possible,” continued Chris. “It was therefore good to see that the reseeded ley also responded much better to fertiliser inputs compared to the older leys on farm.” 

Future plans

Chris is still in the early days of his farm tenancy and is gradually forming a good understanding of the farm’s potential. Over the coming years he hopes to expand his herd, but only when he is in a strong position to do so and can ensure continued, efficient milk production from grass.

“I am keen to increase stocking rates and increase milk production in the future, but only when the leys are in a suitable position to help support this,” explained Chris. “I want to take the farm to its true potential, but I won’t rush