Work by students at the Oatridge Campus of Scotland’s Rural College will advise farmers on ways to quickly restore grassland and grazing badly damaged by months of poor weather.
The wet summer, winter frosts and a cold, late spring mean the grass at the Oatridge farm is well below par. By monitoring and recording the results of three separate pasture trials the students will provide information through which other farmers can tackle the similar problems they face.
The three separate projects underway on pastures at Oatridge have been designed to provide the farm with high yields of quality grazing and high yields of conserved silage in a short timescale. The project involves collaboration between specialist SRUC consultants, The College lecturing staff and seed company Watson Seeds.
According to Peter Scott, Head of Agriculture at Oatridge:
“Following an horrendous 2012, it quickly became clear that a lot of work needed to be done to get the grazing back into good condition while ensuring there would be enough grass to fill the silage pits lying empty after a long winter and spring. Close inspection of our grass swards showed that this year they were only likely to yield 70 to 80 % of their potential”.
There are many other Scottish farmers facing similar problems and the recording of production and quality the SRUC students will do during their course work at Oatridge will provide knowledge to pass on to them. Dumfries based, Sheep and Beef Specialist with the SAC Consulting arm of the Rural College is Rhidian Jones. He will coordinate the knowledge exchange from the trial so it reaches a wider audience through meetings, regular reports in publications and on-line.
“This year we know there are many farmers short of grass for grazing as well as for silage making”, says Rhidian Jones.” The first cut of grass for silage is already late which means the second cut will also be later, as will be the fresh aftermath growth we rely on for grazing livestock. The work is important for the college farm but also to provide knowledge for others. We will examine the seed mixtures and options that are available”.
Johnny Watson of Watson Seeds comments “Across the country there is an unprecedented amount of sward damage. Abnormally low soil temperatures mean grass growth is a good month slower than average. With grass production under so much pressure on many livestock farms, we are keen to try and identify opportunities to help improve grass and clover performance. Demonstration trials, such as this at SRUC Oatridge, are very valuable teaching both students and the wider industry”.
The first of the projects involves three seven acre blocks of a 2-3 year seed mixture, designed to provide high yields of high quality silage with grazing to finish lambs in the autumn. Two blocks will have red clover in the mix to raise protein levels, one of which will include Aber Claret red clover which has increased persistence.
Secondly a nine acre field has been sown with three “one year wonder” mixtures designed to give very high yields of silage for just one year. The 3 mixtures include; 100% Westerwold Ryegrass; a 75% Westerwold and 25% annual clover blend and finally a 35% Westerwold, 40% Italian Ryegrass and 25% annual clover blend.
The third project will compare two methods of renewing worn out swards with bare patches by overseeding. The two methods compared what can be achieved using a spring tine cultivator with pneumatic seeder attached and an Agriseeder machine. One field is being sown with a shorter term mix for silage and grazing while a second field will have a longer term grazing mixture sown. A small area of each field will be left undone for comparative purposes.
All the cutting mixtures will be monitored for yield by students. They will cut and dry samples and test silage quality and grazing days in the autumn. They will compare grazing mixtures by using exclusion cages and calculation of grazing days.
For more information on the trials or to visit the site contact Rhidian Jones on 07919 691 841 or Rhidian.Jones@sac.co.uk.
SRUC acknowledges the support for this project given by Watson Seeds and the Scottish Government funding as part of the Success Through Knowledge campaign.
Caption: Oatridge Farm Machinery lectures Martin Neal, Johnny Watson and Rhidian Jones of SAC Consulting.