Charlie Morgan (GrassMaster)’s practical take home message

11 September 2013

On Wednesday 31st July Soil Association Scotland held their second GrassMaster event as part of the Future Proofing Scotland Farming Programme. The next GrassMaster Event is on 23rd September in Lauder.

Charlie’s practical take home messages from the day started with getting to know your soil:

"The most valuable tool on your farm is your spade. Making a visual and hands on evaluation of your soil at a number of points across a field will help you find out where your compaction is so you know what machine you need and where it’s needed to help repair any damage you find.

Not dealing with soil compaction will lead to reduced output, less grazing days, slow breakdown of slurry, poor root growth, drought stress and overall reduced yield.

Getting the basics right is vital. To know where you are starting from, get your soil analysed. It doesn’t need to be the whole farm at once, look at the fields that aren’t performing first."


Investing in the foundation of the system is essential; correcting pH, P ,K is basic, but needs to be done in order for the rest to work.

Quality pays – grow, manage and utilize

  • Grow only select first choice varieties from the SAC Recommended grass and clover list. Make sure you know your needs and objectives; grazing, silage or both. The best value seed mixture is unlikely to be the cheapest mixture. There is a large difference in the genetic potential of grasses as there is with livestock so identifying the varieties and species that meet the needs of the farm is an important consideration.
  • Manage sward height throughout the season, to optimize output from grass is critical. The right seed selection is important but grazing management and utilization is essential. The value is in the leaf and not the stem, so keeping the grass vegetative and leafy will optimize animal performance and output per hectare.
  • Grazing management can improve every sward. By grazing correctly swards will thicken and increase in density. Help to reduce weed burdens and encourage the better quality grasses to dominate providing soils and nutrients are correct.
     

Eblex sward sticks



Eblex sward sticks

  • Grass provides fibre, sugar and protein through much of the season, but clover has a complimentary growth curve to grass and reaches its peak production during late summer when grass is waning. The combination of quality grass and clover will extend the grazing season and ensure good animal performance. The additional benefit of clover and other legumes is their ability to fix nitrogen. A good white clover content (30% of the DM) can fix 100-150kgN/ha (120units/acre) which this year would be the region of £90 - £135 ha. 

The day, as with all events, is based around practical application of what can be done and achieved on farm. But trying to count grass species and worms at event doesn't work when the farmer’s lab eats all the worms then lies in the quadrant!

Future Proofing Scotland Farming: resources

Grow more grass with the GrassMaster Event, Monday, 23rd September, Lauder
A practical day looking at increasing grass productivity through hands-on field assessment: providing guidance on rejuvenating, reseeding, and over-seeding; what varieties to sow and why; return on investment and aftercare of a new ley. Speakers are Charlie Morgan, GrassMaster and Iain Eadie British Seed Houses. The day will also include a visit to Hillhouse Farm. The event is free of charge to primary producers & £60.00 plus VAT to others. Places are limited and booking is essential so lunch and resource packs can be provided. For further information please call Lyn on 0131 666 0847 or email lmatheson@soilassociation.org
With support from SRDP’s Skills Development Scheme & QMS






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