Pastures new are the key to farming future

THERE is a lot of grass in the United Kingdom but there is not a lot of good productive grass.

This week, almost 200 delegates from all over the country plus visitors from as far afield as Norway and New Zealand, will see some of the best grassland management in the country.

The annual meeting of the British Grassland Society is, this year, organized around a series of visits to farms in the East of Scotland. Yesterday before setting out on these farm visits, president elect John Downes said he believed the best grass in this country could compete with anywhere else in the world, the only problem was there was not enough of it.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Getting good grass seems to be more of a challenge than growing arable crops. There are so many variable factors in getting a good sward of grassland," he said.

"Different varieties perform differently in different seasons and it was important to get correct mixtures. We do not have the same number of crop consultants working with grass as there are in growing cereals."

One big step forward in improving knowledge of grass husbandry has been the arrival of Monitor farms where neighbours can see how the grass crop is managed on these farms and pick up lessons from this.

The whole rationale for concentrating on grass production, he said, was that it was the key to low-cost livestock production.

Downes is a second-generation grassland farmer in Shropshire where he and his son, Tim, run an organic dairy farm. This 670 acre unit uses a variety of grass seed mixes dominated with perennial ryegrass on the heavy land. He reckons to be able to get 5,000 litres of milk per cow purely from his grassland.

They also use a hybrid mix with red clover for their silage needs. The Downes are now experimenting with a number of herbs, such as chicory, plantain and yarrow in the mix for their pasture land. These herbs are all deep rooting and are all supposed to provide additional minerals for the grazing stock.

"Results from this work are encouraging. The cattle seem to benefit," he said.

The farm also rears all the calves from the dairy unit with most of them having an Aberdeen Angus sire.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Yesterday the tour visited two farms in Perthshire. Firstly, Incheoch belonging to the McGowan family where the 1,200 acre livestock based unit concentrates on Luing and Simmental cattle and Texel and Lleyn sheep. The delegates then visited the Alexander's farm at Mains of Mause, Blairgowrie where the main enterprise is 1,000 Limousin cows and their progeny on some 7,500 acres.

lRobert Wiseman Dairies, which claims to procure, process and deliver one third of the fresh milk in the United Kingdom, announced yesterday that it had increased its farm gate milk price by 0.4p per litre as from 1 July.

This latest rise in price puts the value of milk from Wiseman suppliers at 24.72p per litre, some 0.7p per litre above the level of a year ago.

Pete Nicholson, the procurement manager for the company, said the intention of the company was to "continue to build on our track record of offering producers a competitive standard milk price".

He added that it was of critical importance to strike the correct balance between paying a leading milk price and keeping their ability to compete within the dairy sector.