After a drought, you will see which paddocks are worn out and need reseeding

After a drought, you will see which paddocks are worn out and need reseeding
At Macroom Mart last Saturday, six Charolais steers born February to September, 2018, which weighed 644kg and sold for €1,310. Right, three Angus steers born April and May, 2019, which weighed 301kg and sold for €635.

After a mini-drought for many, the very welcome rain in the past week has given a big boost to grass growth rates, albeit that some ground is still stressed, and grass is getting very wiry and heading out early.

I appreciate that there are still areas that have got little or no rain yet.

Fingers crossed: it is not far away for those areas.

It may only be the middle of June, but the increase in growth may encourage you to start planning autumn reseeding.

Depending on the method you will use, you should be starting to work on the swards to be reseeded over the coming weeks.

During the recent dry spell, it was obvious that younger swards grew better for longer, while the old, worn-out swards slowed down much quicker.

Grass observations

Irish beef producers rely heavily on grazed grass and grass silage as their main forage sources.

The quality and quantity of grass produced can be the biggest feed-related influence on animal performance and farm profitability.

The majority of beef and dairy farms have a proportion of swards that don’t always grow enough grass, especially at the shoulders of the year.

This is often due to the absence of sufficient perennial ryegrass in swards.

This may be due to many factors such as sward age, pasture management, poaching, weed population and soil fertility. etc.

It is always observed by farmers how much better recently reseeded paddocks are growing compared to older swards.

Underperforming swards and damaged paddocks badly need to be reseeded if they are to produce a high yield of grass next year and beyond.

It is also very obvious in periods of rapid growth which paddocks are not growing grass efficiently.

This will be very evident after the mini-drought, when rain drives growth in new swards, and old ones languish behind.

Why and how often?

Reseeding is not cheap, so it should only be done where significant financial benefits are to be gained.

Pastures deteriorate over time, this is a natural process and therefore cannot be avoided.

A general recommendation is that grazing ground should be reseeded every eight to 10 years and continuous silage ground should be reseeded every five to seven years, particularly if two or more cuts are taken annually.

How to get best grass establishment

Many continue to reseed by the traditional method of ploughing while others are using direct drilling and stitching in grass, among other methods.

Topsoil depth, stone population, and soil structure may determine the most appropriate method.

Regardless of the method, there are important things that you need to get right.

A firm seedbed needs to be created for good establishment of the new sward.

Just as important is getting the pH of the soil up to desirable levels. The P and K levels of the soil also need to be acceptable, to aid the establishment of new swards.

After a drought, you will see which paddocks are worn out and need reseeding

Benefits of reseeding

  • Grows more grass in both shoulders of the year.

  • New swards are much more responsive to nitrogen compared to old permanent pasture.

  • Improved animal performance from better quality, more palatable grass.

  • Increased productivity per hectare.

  • Re-growth is faster, meaning more grass grown annually.

  • Better silage quality and quantity.

    Grass seed mixtures

    There are many options.

    The type of mix you choose at reseeding on a beef farm should be determined by what you intend to use the sward for.

    Is the field going to be used for mainly silage or grazing?

    What level is your farm stocked at?

    What types of soils are being reseeded?

    Heading date and diploid/tetraploids proportions need to be considered when making your decision.

    Whether you include clover in the mix or not will depend on how much nitrogen you apply and what chemicals you use for weed control.

    Look at recommended variety lists, and ask what mixes are working well locally.

    Reseeding checklist

    After a drought, you will see which paddocks are worn out and need reseeding

  • Choose a low yielding field with a high proportion of weeds and lower percentage of perennial ryegrass.

  • A soil test should be done on fields you are reseeding. Apply fertiliser and lime as per your soil test result.

  • Spray off the field with glyphosate.

  • Establish a fine, flat and firm seedbed if ploughing or discing, etc.

  • Stitching in has become more popular, very successful where soil nutrient status is good.

  • Sow grass seed at 12-14 kg/acre. The seedbed should ideally be rolled to ensure moisture is retained and the seed makes good contact with the soil.

  • It is important to hit weeds at an early stage for maximum control.

  • Monitor the new crop for slugs, leatherjackets, frit fly, and rabbits.

    Management of the new sward

    The first grazing is very important for sward establishment. Graze well and quickly. to encourage tillering and increase vigour.

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