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Forage & Nutrition
Guide 2018
Author: Paul Flanagan
General manager DLF Seeds (Irish operations)
Grazing grass palatability key to
grassland utilisation success
Reseeding has always been a tricky task on Irish farms. In a lot of cases,
we need a clear forecast for 10-14 days to tackle the job; that is not
withstanding grass growth in any given year and ensuring plentiful supply
during the process
To put it simply when the weather is right and grass is in
plentiful supply. It appears in recent years, the possibility that
both of these moons align is becoming a rarer phenomenon as
weather patterns become more irregular and farms see ever-
increasing stocking rates.
If farmers are grazing more land and reseeding less, then it
stands to reason the average age of a ley in Ireland is going up.
This results in poorer fertiliser utilisation, more weed grasses,
reduced quality and reduced yield. The efficiencies that come
with the grass-based model we have, is only effective as long
as we stay on top of our grassland and keep perennial ryegrass
content high.
The majority of reseeding in Ireland is done with grazing in
mind and the information available to farmers today when
choosing varieties fit for this purpose, is contained in the
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine's Grass and
White Clover Recommended List, along with Teagasc's Pasture
Profit Index. In more recent years, Teagasc has undertaken
a new study on actual animal grazing. Although this data is
currently incomplete, early indications suggest some very
interesting results.
Palatability is a difficult parameter for breeders like DLF to
measure. We cut plots with a Haldrup harvester equipped with
near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) technology; this generates
datasets on yield, dry matter (DM) yields, protein contents,
sugar contents, and more recently, cell wall digestibility. NIRS
technology has transformed plot trials, however one parameter
which is not quite a constant within the system just yet is
As a breeder, DLF understands the morphological and chemical
traits required for an excellent grazing grass, and has varieties
such as Aspect, Solas and Xenon in the market today that
demonstrate this. Aspect, for example, does not top the
Pasture Profit Index, however the variety has excellent graze
outs and utilisation on farm, indicating it is highly palatable.
This begs the question, should we concern ourselves with yield
potential or utilisation potential? Leaf shape, growth habit,
sheath height and digestibility all have a role to play in the
success of Aspect at farm level.
Two factors that will determine an animal's performance on
any given variety are voluntary intake and energy derived
Eamonn Kent and David Hunter.