As spring rolls around, certainly on the calendar, thoughts soon roll around to the upcoming jobs on the farm, my thoughts at this time of year are to the grass and what I can do to get the best quality for the season coming.
If I send out a poll and said “show of hands who would like to cut their chemical fertiliser bill” I certainly would have an almost full show of hands.
If the next question I asked was who wants to grow more grass, it is likely I would have the same result.
Is it possible to do both?
Well why not!
So this year after the news years resolutions have passed, I would make it my new years resolution ( its not too late to make one I’m told) to grow more grass.
The very first stop for me is going to be doing a soil test.
Now it is recommended that a soil sample is taken every two hectares. Some farmers may feel this is too frequent especially on larger farms, this figure is not law, especially to farmers outside of Glas who are required to soil test as part of the scheme. If you have a field larger than 2 hectares that has a uniform soil structure and always received equal treatment, then one soil sample would be adequate for this field.
In order to get a sample, you will need to get a soil sampler tool.
To get the most representative sample, take the samples in a W pattern like below
In order to take and send off your samples, contact your advisor who will have a soil sampler to lend and the sample boxes to hold them. They will also organise to have them sent to the laboratory for analysis and collect the cost of doing so.
When you receive the results of the testing and have them in hand, you can easily now see what fields are lacking in Lime, Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). You could also do further investigation by testing for the trace elements in the soil also, it is more expensive but I have also said in this column that knowledge is key and the more you know about whats going on in the ground the better the result will be will be above ground.
If lime is lacking in the soil, then for the silage ground, it is best wait until the Autumn to correct the deficiency as it must be at least six months after lime is spread before silage can be taken up as it would have a serious effect on silage preservation.
When the result are returned to you and if you are unsure as to what they mean, by all means bring them into your advisor and he/she will be able to translate for you.
Balancing the nutrients in the soil is a sure fire way to ensure the ideal conditions for grass to grow at its best and give you the maximum return.
I also take this time of year to assess what if any reseeding will be carried out, I would look at fields that I know the soil nutrients are fine and think that the grass itself is old and tired. If you cannot remember when that field was reseeded last then put it to the top of the list.
A general thought is to reseed 10% of the farm every year and certainly recently reseeded pastures are shown to outperform old swards every time, it is also a sure way to increase grass production and cut back on fertiliser which never hurts.
With very little of this work been able to be carried out now, I would take this chance to have it planned so when the weather arrives its just a matter to jump straight into it and not have to plan it out first.
For those with itchy feet to get out on the land, then take this chance to check all fences and water troughs. Last thing you need to be doing is trying to repair a fence while trying to keep a herd of cattle from going through it at the same time, a task that’s by no means simple.
Young Bulls 365-390c/kg
Prices seem be holding but cumulative kill numbers for steers, heifers and young bulls is down compared to 2016 but cow numbers are up compared with 2016 figures.
Mart trade watch
Word is that mart trade remains buoyant with increasing numbers of cattle on offer with lighter quality lots achieving the best price per kg.