December is a month of reflection. It’s the quietest month of the year in terms of workload but an hour in front of a laptop, phone or going through accounts can be time well spent. This week has been a case of evaluation and planning.

For this farm it’s been silage results, soil sampling and grass seed.

Silage results came back and to say I’m puzzled would be understatement. This first year red clover ley was cut at 2,000kg/dm ha and was all leaf. When the first of the bales were opened it came as no surprise it looked excellent quality. When I received the silage sample results this week the red clover silage tested 67dmd and 18% protein. The protein figure was pleasing as this silage is been fed to store animals so it should allow good growth rates but the dmd was extremely disappointing. Some initial investigating suggests this is a common feature this year. Some samples are coming back with high ammonia levels and low pH levels suggesting high levels of nitrogen still present. The ammonia level was mid range at 12% so that wasn’t an issue but the pH was slightly high suggesting poor fermentation or lack of sugars which can be issue with red clover. A preservative would be desirable in that case but can be difficult to administer because we use all bales. The other sample I sent away was from old permanent pasture and came back with result of 69dmd and 13% protein which were acceptable for old pasture. Over the course of next 3 years all silage ground will be reseeded.

Soil samples have been taken on a number of fields. I carry out a number of soil samples every year to keep on top of soil fertility. Soil fertility across the whole farm was poor with many fields in index 1 and 2. We set about improving this by the information the soil samples provide. We are very fortunate with one block of land we own, it has a naturally high pH with a range of 6.4-6.8 so this leaves us without the expense of extra lime. We have used farm yard manure with great effect to lift soil fertility and improve overall soil structure and stay within REPS constraints. Improving soil structure and having a reseeding plan in place should allow us to grow substantial more grass in future.

We have 15 acres ear marked in the spring time for reseeding. So my thoughts have turned to grass seed varieties. I hope to try the new variety AberGain as it looks as it has great potential in terms of overall tonnage of dry matter, spring and autumn growth. I hope to also try Astonenegry on some silage ground because of its figures in terms of tonnage and with our heavily stocked farm maximise grass grown is vital. I would like to try Bealey as it has performed excellently in Moorepark but I need to research it further before using it. I usually go with a 3-way mix. So for silage ground I’m considering Astonenegry, AberGain and Tyrella to allow adequate ground cover. For grazing paddocks Tyrella, AberGain and possibily Bealey.