Making the most of forage is a priority for UK farmers. Whether grazed or ensiled quality grass is still the most economic source of feed, and when managed right will reduce production costs and minimise environmental impact.
To maximise returns and reduce costly losses grassland must be managed from the soil up – farmers and contractors visiting the Grassland & Muck Event at Ragley Estate in Warwickshire on 20 – 21 May, will find solutions to make the most of their grass, manures and soils, says event organiser Alice Bell.
“The event brings together the latest ideas and technologies with 172 acres of working grass and muck demonstrations, a full technical forum programme and over 200 exhibitors.”
Underpinning the value of grassland nutrition and its application will be Nigel Hester, John Telfer and Philip Cosgrave in Yara’s technical forum sessions. “With bottom lines under pressure, farmers are looking for more ways to improve efficiencies and make the most of their home-grown forage,” explains Mr Hester.
“Valuable information is gained from soil and manure analysis allowing precise micronutrient plans to be compiled for your grass silage, grazing and reseeding sites which is vital for sward diversity and health. Having a handle on accurate application rates of fertilisers – natural or artificial – will maximise return on investment and minimise wastage,” he says.
Mr Hester is keen for farmers to see that tightening up efficiencies is cost saving. “Correct pH of soils is essential in fertiliser utilisation. If fertilisers are applied to soils not at target pH, your cost per unit goes up considerably.”
Other sessions in the technical forum programme will include advice on manure management by ADAS’s John Williams; how to avoid clamp slippage by Dave Davis reporting on AHDB’s silage slippage project, and how to rejuvenate pasture, making the right reseeding and variety choices by DLF’s Paddy Jack.
Meanwhile the event will be shining a spotlight on grazing systems with a new grazing feature and discussion tent exploring how rotational grazing can boost outputs and soil quality. The live demonstration with sheep on a specially sown grazing mix will give farmers the chance to see and discuss how rotational grazing can improve their productivity from grass.
Tom Chapman, farmer and head of regenerative agriculture at Innovation for Agriculture, will be focusing on how to regenerate soils and farm profitably.
“Farming is a business – it needs to be profitable. How farmers can achieve that while safeguarding the environment and consequently the future productivity of the land, is where regenerative agriculture can help.
“Regenerative agriculture is about managing land in a way which promotes a healthy, living soil, captures carbon and makes a profitable return,” he explains. “If managed properly, grass can be capturing sunlight feeding both ends of production – soil and animal – all year round.”
Herbal mixes for both grazing and ensiling leys will also be explored, including; varying rooting depths; heading dates for nutrient uptake; longevity; resilience to weather and disease challenges.
Arable farmers can benefit from increased productivity by using grass and cover crops, alongside grazing stock in arable rotations. “Breaking arable rotations in this way will help heal, feed and prepare soils for the next crop – it is also an effective way to suppress weeds,” explains Mr Chapman.
Showcasing the latest agronomic developments, visitors can see over 100 grass varieties and mixes sown in the demonstration plots, including flood and drought tolerant species.
For farmers who want to learn how to assess their soils, alleviate compaction, interpret soil test results and plan manure applications – the ADAS Soil and Nutrient Advice Clinic is a must.
ADAS reports that according to the most recent Farm Practices survey, 62% of grazing livestock farmers in lowland areas do not undertake any form of soil structural assessment. With soil structure so important, effective management is fundamental in maximising efficiencies and achieving long term sustainable production.
“We know that farmers and contractors visit the event to see the latest machinery, gather information and ideas,” says Ms Bell. “The 2020 event promises more experts and solutions than ever before, with 94% of visitors rating Grassland & Muck 2017 as good or excellent – visitors to the 2020 event are sure to be inspired.”
Tickets go on sale in March 2020. Save money and book your tickets early at grasslandevent.co.uk.