Farming News - Unique Grassland Agronomy Approach Delivers Livestock Nutrition to Boost Performance

Unique Grassland Agronomy Approach Delivers Livestock Nutrition to Boost Performance

Mole Valley Farmers has launched a holistic Soil-to-Silage service to help livestock farmers get the most nutritional value from their grassland.

Soil-to-Silage is available to Members, Shareholders and customers of the farmer-owned co-operative and uses expertise from across their agronomy and animal nutrition teams.

The unique 360O service uses an innovative system approach to record grassland inputs and quality and is focused on the journey from soil to silage. The service includes:

  • Soil health advice and environmental management
  • Regular crop inspections to assess the performance of the grassland and forage crops, as well as monitoring for pests, weeds and disease
  • Nutrition management, understanding what nutrition is readily available on farm
  • Harvest management- using feedback on previous year's data so that harvest can be fine-tuned to optimise yields and quality to optimise the feed value.
  • Understanding the nutritional value of the crop and its part in the diet.
  • Identifying low-yielding fields and outlining how improvements can be made
  • Crop costings.

The service ensures farmers maximise their yield per hectare from their grassland and that the crop offers optimum energy and protein yield per ha for the animal.

Lisa Hambly, Head of Grassland & Forage Agronomy at Mole Valley Farmers, said the unique element of this service is the link to animal nutrition and how the grass and forage crops influences that.

"What we grow in the field has to provide the best nutritional outcome for the animal. We can only fully understand that by looking at the whole farming system.

"This service not only helps address imbalances in the soil and targets crop nutrition, but it also looks at how the silage in the clamp feeds out and where changes can be made.

"Mole Valley Farmers is involved throughout the whole process, with specialist systems behind us to support every step," she added.

For example, to help farmers determine crop yields and quality, Mole Valley Farmers uses cutting-edge software Omega Crop. Grass growth crop modelling, together with weather and satellite data, are used to predict current grass covers and quality and can forecast growth without walking fields and measuring by hand.

Data from Omega Crop can then be used to target correct grazing dates and identify fields that aren't performing. This allows further investigative work to take place to determine the problem and then work towards a solution to correct those lower yields.

Likewise, to determine the correct nutrients for the grassland, the organisation has a dedicated Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) specifically for livestock farms to help target grassland nutrients, boost productivity and maximise profitability. This provides farmers with information on current soil nutrition using soil samples, the nutrient requirements of different crops required to grow specific yields and the nutrients available on the farm already from slurry and farmyard manure (FYM)- using up-to-date samples.

Ms Hambly added: "Often the focus is on producing the best crop but isn't linked to how well that crop feeds the animals, which is fundamentally important. This service will factor in data such as daily live weight gains and days to slaughter to determine how well the grass performs.

"We will also analyse slurry to check key elements, such as the level of nitrogen, to give us an understanding of how well the diet is being utilised and how we can fine tune it."

By signing up for Soil-to-Silage, farmers will be able to maximise the productivity and profitability of their systems.

"Knowing the exact condition of the soil means that nutrients can be targeted and home-produced sources utilised after being tested. The correct crops and varieties can be grown and monitored so they are harvested at the correct time. The end product is then analysed, and animal production is monitored to determine how successful that crop is feeding and where improvements can be made. We are helping farmers create a direct link between the forage they grow and the productivity of their animals," explained Ms Hambly.

There is a cost for some of the tools used within the service, such as Omega Crop, soil testing and Nutrient Management Plans, but the tailored advice from both the agronomy and nutritionist teams is provided as part of the service.

"We want to help farmers make continuous improvements in their business, and this holistic service is a key element of that, using science and technology to maximise growth and productivity across the entire farming enterprise."

For further information please contact the Grassland & Forage Line on 01769 576232.