The wet autumn has left many farmers with bare stubble or ploughed land with nothing growing. So, what are the options for getting that land back into production? This will vary from farm to farm depending on individual circumstances and demands.

SPRING BARLEY: This can be grown for grain production or wholecrop and could possibly be undersown with a grass ley. Seed grain is still available at the time of writing. This option would yield some concentrate for next winter and some straw if harvested or a bulk forage if wholecropped. There would be time after harvesting to get a subsequent crop sown in the autumn. On light land the bulk weight will depend on there being sufficient moisture in spring. Spring oats and Spring wheat seed are sold out.

FORAGE MAIZE: The 2012 maize season certainly highlighted the necessity for good land with a warm southerly aspect. Heavy marginal land was certainly found unsuitable this last year but surely the weather will be a bit kinder this next season. In most seasons maize can give a big yield of high value forage which feeds well. The April/May sowing window certainly gives plenty of time for land to dry out and be subsoiled prior to drilling. Seed costs are similar to the last two seasons.

SHORT TERM GRASS: Where bulk forage is required in the short term Westerwolds ryegrass is the best option. This fast growing one year grass will provide three or four cuts of silage. Seed costs per acre will be lower than the two options above. The short intervals between harvests would mean this crop would need ensiling separate to the main grass silage crops at some part of the summer (or big baling).

LONG TERM GRASS: For a long lasting option a long term ley may be considered. We can include 2-3kg of Westerwolds or Italian Ryegrass in the mix to increase the yield in the two years.

FORAGE CROPS: The high performing forage crops are Fodder Beet and Kale, and to a lesser extent the fast growing catch crops Forage Rape and Stubble Turnips.

FODDER BEET: Is a high energy palatable crop with a high dry matter content of 17%. Crop is precision drilled in April and usually lifted in October, hence lifting equipment or contractor would be required, although grazing in situ can be carried out. Fresh yields 32-36 tonnes/acre.
KALE: Traditionally grown for cattle and sheep strip grazing or zero grazed. Kale has a flexible utilisation period from late summer into winter; hence sowing times are from April until early July. Fresh yields are 25-30 tonnes/acre with a crude protein of 16-17%.

FORAGE RAPE: Ready for grazing during September to December, 3 months from sowing, which is usually after cereal harvest. Forage rape is suitable for both cattle and sheep with fresh yields of 12-15 tonnes/acre, in addition to having a high crude protein of 19-20%.
STUBBLE TURNIPS: Grazed through the winter period following a sowing preferably after winter barley. Stubble turnips are a flexible and economical crop to grow especially for finishing lambs, with fresh yields of 15-16 tonnes/acre and crude protein of 17-18%. Leafy varieties may be sown in May to supplement grazing for dairy cows in late summer.

Whatever decision is made we would recommend assessing the field for structural damage through panning and compaction and soil testing to assess the fertiliser requirements.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email