Date: 08.07.2022

As in any sector, you can only spend a euro once in livestock farming. This spring we are faced with the fact that the prices for fertilizer and animal feed in particular are very high.

Yet you read and hear from various sides the advice not to save too much on fertilizer application because sufficient roughage must be obtained and supplementing with concentrate and raw materials later in the season is always more expensive. This is certainly true and sufficient high-quality roughage should always be the starting point.

This was recently discussed by our product manager Luuk Maas during a birthday party with a manager in a completely different sector. If you can only spend a euro once, his choice would always go for the decision where that euro yields the most, has the largest and longest effect.

The effect of fertilizer is a higher yield and feeding value in the next cut. However, the effect on the later cuts is much smaller and fertilizer will have to be applied again after each cut.

DSV Seeds has carried out a multi-year trial in which the yield difference between good perennial ryegrass and less desirable grasses such as rough meadow and meadow grass has become clear. Perennial ryegrass averaged 13.3 tons of dry matter over 2 seasons, while the average of rough meadow and annual meadow grass remained at 4.5 tons of dry matter per hectare. Every farmer  knows that it is practically impossible to find only perennial ryegrass in the plot. Even if you sow a new plot, weeds will always be visible and the annual meadow grass will start to bloom around the driveways, trees and water troughs.

But from our advisors who are closely involved in practice, we also know that there are still plenty of plots where this maximum 90% of desired perennial ryegrass is not visible either. Plots that look beautifully green from a distance contain 30 or 40% annual meadow grass and rough meadows, and therefore only about 70% good grasses.

To reduce the proportion of unwanted grasses and increase the proportion of perennial ryegrass in the plot, it is not even necessary to oversow new seed every year or to tackle it resolutely by starting overnew. Start with weeding harrows that scratch away the shallow-rooted grasses and create space for the perennial ryegrass. Only when the open spaces become too large is it advisable to also sow new grass seed.

With the extreme difference in yield and the high roughage prices, considerable amounts can be saved. This was soon calculated on a beer mat during the birthday. At a roughage price of €0.2 per kg of dry matter, you will quickly reach attractive savings. Suppose you can increase the proportion of perennial ryegrass by 20% from 70% to 90%. Something that is certainly a feasible goal in practice, then this yields €352 per ha in higher yields in the 1st year. The great thing about this investment in your sward is that it also ensures a higher yield in the following years. Please note that by not keeping up with the sward you will lose money. 10% less yield quickly costs €176/ha.

To summarize: Depending from the sward composition, the dry matter yield and thus the econmic value of roughage (€/ha) differs immensely based on a roughage price of €0.2 per kg of dry matter.

As a counter-argument, one could argue that it's easy to talk about it and that you must of course have the money available, even if it is sometimes only a small investment and that the effect and chance of success of overseeding is only visible later but fertilizer shows immediate results.

This was also tackled directly on a second beer mat. With 70% perennial ryegrass and 30% bad grasses, the estimated yield is 10.7 tons dm/ha. A livestock farmer with 20 ha will then harvest a total of 214 tons of dry grass. With 90% good grass, a yield of 12.4 tons is achievable and actually only 17 ha of grass is needed to achieve the same total yield. Let’s think about how much fertilizer could be saved in this way.


DSV breeding in Lolium perenne: a new EXPLOSION

DSV offers a wide range portfolio of Lolium perenne varieties with differences in ploidy and maturity. Our newest and unique variety is EXPLOSION. The tetraploid intermediate variety shows a very high sugar content and an excellent digestibility. The outstanding forage quality is combined with high dry matter yields, rust resistance and peat soil suitability.

Lolium perenne is the most cultivated forage grass in western Europe and has been bred by DSV since the very beginning. It’s importance is reflected in its high yield potential and forage quality. The perennial species is ideally suited for overseeding but can also be used in short term field forage. It does not tolerate bare frost, very dry sites or long periods of snow cover.