Are you missing out on your paddock's potential

Published 12 February 15

To reseed or not reseed?

Two key questions in this challenging economic climate when utilisation is crucial, are what is the potential of your paddocks and are they going to perform as well as they can? You will not know this unless you challenge your paddocks, just as in the case study below from a farm I visited last year.

One particular paddock, on a well-managed, rotationally grazed unit, grew 10 tonnes of DM/ha in 2013. This compared well with the national average and the rest of the farm, where the average was 12 tonnes DM/ha. This paddock is on a farm where the team constantly challenges what they do. The decision was therefore made to drive output and, in spring 2014, this paddock was reseeded. It was out of production for seven weeks and, by the end of last season, it had grown 15 tonnes DM/ha. A 50% increase in output and drastically reducing p/kg of DM and p/MJ of ME.

Are you missing out on this type of potential in your paddocks?

Firstly, you need to know how much DM your paddock produces. Secondly, you need to check the soils. Are they free of compaction and what is the pH level? An incorrect pH can reduce yield by 5-30% depending on soil type. What are the indices of P&K? Below two and you are limiting growth. Furthermore, are you maximising the use of nitrogen? In good growing conditions the response to 1kg N on good ryegrass sward is 30kg DM, on poor swards it’s half.

The following table shows the average production of tonnes of DM/ha for farms in Ireland in 2009 and 2010, as well as the range in 2010. This range is undoubtedly seen on most farms. By reseeding and challenging a paddock you may not see the sward go from the bottom to the top, but you would expect the reseed to move towards the average, and thus bring up the farm average.

Teagasc table

 

In a discussion group last week, the topic was whether this year was the year to give reseeding a rest to save money. The group concluded that in a situation with very new and high performing swards, or where the unit is understocked, it may be acceptable to give it a rest this year. In other situations, reseeding should still take place to ensure you don’t lose the potential of your paddocks.