To kick off the 2023 reseeding season DLF hosted two spring trade events on their Grass Partner Farms in counties Kerry and Meath to showcase the next generation of forage solutions available to Irish farmers.
Visitors were able to see the latest results from DLF’s on-farm trials and what they could mean for Irish farming. Topics discussed on the day included selecting the best grass varieties for grazing utilisation and efficiency, oversowing white clover and the benefits of multi-species swards.
One of the highlights of the day was the presentation of the DLF Variety Grazing Trial results – a trial designed to assess the performance of new grass varieties under actual grazing managemen
“The aim of the trial is to see how perennial ryegrass varieties, new and old, perform in a real-life grazing rotation with all of the challenges that management, livestock and weather bring,” explained Thomas Moloney, Technical Manager at DLF.
“We have collected a massive amount of data from across the country during this trial and it is giving us a very clear picture of what makes a great grazing variety. The key traits we are looking for in a grazing variety are the potential utilised yield i.e. the amount of grass actually consumed by the animal and also the residual or post-grazing sward height. These traits are closely linked with DM yield and quality but also physiological characteristics of the variety like leaf size and density.”
Cows prefer to eat tetraploid perennial ryegrass varieties and farmers are now conscious of this when choosing grass mixtures
“What our data tells us is that Tetraploid varieties are better suited to grazing systems than Diploid varieties. This agrees with similar trials comparing Tetraploid to Diploid varieties and is primarily due to larger leaf size, greater digestibility and general ease of grazing with Tetraploids.”
The utilisation of grass grown is a key performance indicator of any enterprise and each extra tonne of grass utilised is estimated by Teagasc to be worth an additional €181/ha.
Maximum grass utilisation can be achieved by selecting the right varieties and mixtures.
Increasing Utilisation with DLF NxGen Tetraploids
Without knowing the potential utilisation of a variety, farmers buying seed for grazing paddocks have been at a disadvantage.
“The Grazing Utilisation Trait is a very positive addition to the Pasture Profit Index because it provides farmers with information that was previously unavailable from independent data,” said Paul Flanagan, General Manager DLF Ireland.
“For years we have been asked about grass palatability and how mixtures and varieties will graze out and while we already knew that Tetraploid varieties graze better than diploids, the new trait on the Pasture Profit Index confirms this.
“The traditional grass mix is a blend of diploid and tetraploid with the diploid historically included for density and persistence while traditional tetraploid varieties tended to be very open and upright.
“Over the last decades of breeding we have tried to bring the positive attributes of a diploid into our tetraploid breeding program.
“We refer to this type of variety as NxGen tetraploids, combining the density and persistence of diploids with the quality and graze out of Tetraploids.
“Xenon was the first achievement from that work and has been my personal favourite variety for some time for that reason. It was one of the first varieties to achieve five stars when the grazing utilisation trait was announced in 2021.”
Nashota is the second NxGen variety that DLF has brought to the Irish market and is up at the top of the PPI ranking. A grazing score is currently not available for it, but preliminary results suggest a 5-star rating is likely.
According to DLF, Nashota is the perfect complement to Xenon in a grazing mix providing early spring growth and high-quality yield.
Changing Grass Traditions
Grass mixtures traditionally contain at least 50% Diploid varieties with the balance made of Tetraploids and maybe some clover. But time and again research and farmer experience has shown that Tetraploid varieties have better quality, better graze-out and grass utilisation, and better animal performance than Diploid varieties.
Cows prefer to eat Tetraploid perennial ryegrass varieties and farmers are now conscious of this when choosing grass mixtures.
DLF are changing grass traditions with the all-Tetraploid 4N Grazer quickly becoming one of the most popular grazing mixtures in the country. DLF late Tetraploid varieties Nashota, Xenon and Aspect occupy the top three places for Grazing Utilisation on the PPI so the decision to combine all three in an intensive grazing mixture was easy. This mixture is designed for maximum grass utilisation.
Improving farm efficiency with Multi-species Swards
In recent years, there has been an increasing move towards multi-species swards in Ireland as farmers weigh up the cost savings, improved animal performance and the environmental considerations.
“A multi-species sward is a mixture of at least three different species,” explained Dr Moloney. “The species that you put into it will come from plant families like grasses, legumes and herbs. The idea is that each species will bring a different benefit or something new to the sward and that’s how production is helped overall.”
The obvious benefit of multi-species swards is the savings made from reduced nitrogen fertiliser application. These mixtures can produce the same yield as a grass sward receiving 200kg N/ha per year for little or no inorganic N at all. In addition, deep rooting herbs like ribwort plantain and chicory are extremely drought tolerant and produce high quality forage in the summer months when grass growth and quality can reduce.
DLF Ecotain – the new technology in N control
This spring DLF are launching an exciting new plantain with potential to dramatically reduce nitrate loss from Irish farms to rivers and lakes.
Ecotain plantain has been proven to reduce nitrate loos from the ruminant urine patch by up to 89% depending on the sward blend, soil type and weather conditions.
Every time a cow urinates the equivalent of up to 800kg N/ha is applied to a tiny area of pasture. Such high levels of N are far in excess of plant requirement and much of this N is vulnerable to leaching from the soil to waterways as nitrate.
Ecotain combines not one, but four modes of action that work together to significantly reduce nitrate leaching from the urine patch. These are Dilute, Delay, Reduce and Restrict.
Ecotain is included in all DLF multi-species mixtures and can be added to our grazing mixtures DLF 4N Grazer and DLF Grazer.