Late autumn / early winter is a good time to develop a plan to improve or maintain herbage production on your farm.
A major focus on farms needs to be placed on soil fertility to ensure that sufficient feed is being grown on the farm.
To achieve this, a soil health plan needs to be developed on farms, with work taking place on an ongoing basis.
With the grass growing season now over for the year, records can easily identify paddocks that have under-performed.
There are a number of potential reasons why some paddocks have under-performed, e.g., they may have been reseeded this year and were over-sown with clover.
But if a paddock has under-performed and there is no reason for this, it may be time to start considering options to improve this.
2023 was a challenging year for most farms, but it was also a reasonable year for grass growth.
Grass remains key to the production model and ensuring that as much grass as possible is being grown on farm for the lowest cost, is important.
Reseeding and spreading of lime is vital to ensure that grass growth remains sufficient on farms.
Reseeding of paddocks is part and parcel of operating a grass-based production model, with regular reseeding required on the farm. It should be done on paddocks that have a large amount of old grass or where there is an issue with weed burdens.
Liming paddocks should be done when it is determined that soil pH has fallen below the desired levels.
This will likely have resulted in the paddock under performing as conditions will not be ideal for grass growth. Improving the soil pH alone can result in increased herbage production.
Taking regular soil samples on farm is important to have a picture of the soil fertility situation.
Once soil samples have been taken, a management plan can be developed to improve soil fertility.
Seeing results from improving soil fertility can take time, so targeting parts of the farm with the poorest fertility should be completed first.
For many farms, the only time that soil samples can really be taken is around Christmas week to ensure accurate results. However, it is advisable to speak to an advisor and determine when is the correct time for your farm.
Improved soil fertility and new grasses should result in better forage production and quality, with a reduced level of chemical fertilisers being required.