Across Scotland it has been a difficult summer for silage producers. In late October '18 it was reported1 that many Scottish farmers are facing a severe silage shortfall this winter because of incredibly wet summer weather. Relentless rain, with very few back-to-back dry days, meant many Scottish farmers found it difficult to cut and collect grass as planned.
Commenting, Mhairi Dawson, Barenbrug’s Research & Development Manager, and a Scottish farmer herself, said: “Weather challenges seem to be increasing rather than lessening in Scotland – and this year was no exception. The start of the year was incredibly dry. In April, the UK experienced just 47% of expected rainfall, with Edinburgh experiencing its driest month on record since 19592. With so little rain, new grass growth was exposed to early stress. Then, adding insult to injury, we experienced the fifth wettest summer on record3 - which made cutting in some places almost impossible.”
Continuing she said: “It’s really difficult to offer farmers advice in this kind of situation - where the main problem is getting out in the field to work on the grass that’s available. Obviously we can’t change the weather so the next best step is to try to maximize grass growth at all times to provide a bit of a buffer. Growing extra grass when the conditions are good can help make low yield years more bearable. To do this, farmers should think about reseeding regularly - picking varieties from Recommended Lists that are proven to perform and have the right heading dates for local conditions.”
Earlier this year, Barenbrug calculated that farmers that don't reseed could be missing out on grass dry matter worth around £360 per hectare (ha) on a two-cut silage system. A sward established at the end of the 2017 grass-growing season has the potential (in 2018) to produce around 11.63 tonnes (t) of dry matter (DM) per ha from two cuts1. That’s around 2.6 tDM/ha more grass than an old field made up of 50% weed and 50% productive species, which would typically yield around 9 tDM/ha. Costs are based on the assumption that DM is valued at £140/t and gains calculated do not take into account any additional cuts or autumn grazing that could increase yields further.
2018 again, sees more specifically designed grass varieties and mixtures that are suited to Scottish growing conditions. Products include Caledon - an intermediate tetraploid perennial ryegrass that has been bred to offer obvious improvements in yield and disease resistance. Caledon has a very high total cutting yield in year 1 and 3 (108 and 105); a high second cut yield of 117; and good second cut quality of 72.30.
Also launching in 2018 is Bardoux. The latest product from the company’s soft-leaved tall fescue breeding program, Bardoux combines drought tolerance and winter hardiness with improved yield. Crucially it also offers good digestibility providing just the right balance of feed value and fibre.
4: Figure from 2017/18 Recommended Grass and Clover List