Monday, September 16, 2019

Bumper grass yields make soil nutrient replenishment vital

September 10, 2019 by  
Filed under Livestock

Bumper forage yields on many farms are likely to remove more key nutrients than usual from soils, says a grassland expert.

With many livestock producers achieving forage yields 50% higher than in the challenging year of 2018, soil nutrients will be considerably diminished this year, says independent grassland consultant George Fisher.

Phosphorus, potassium and sulphur could have been significantly depleted in recent months with soil testing and development of appropriate fertiliser management strategies now needed to ensure levels are restored effectively, he believes.

“We’re hearing reports of freshweight yields of as much as 75 t/ha in two cuts at 20% dry matter and crude proteins are looking much better than in many years at 13-15%, especially for those producers that heeded advice to include sulphur as part of their fertiliser strategy.”

Good palatability

For those that managed to cut silage when they wanted to, energy levels look to be good as well, says Dr Fisher. This means most people should have metabolisable energy levels of 11.5MJ/kg/DM with good palatability.

The challenge now is to make sure 2019 is not a one-off for grassland production. This will involve employing a careful nutrition strategy. It is a challenge compounded by the poor year of 2018 when much grassland suffered from lack of rainfall.

Dr Fisher says: “Some did not receive adequate fertiliser because of the difficult conditions in the spring and summer, whilst some was over supplied with nitrogen late in the season when farmers were trying to catch-up.

“But making cost-effective use of available grassland is essential in any livestock system and the only way you can know the precise amounts of essential nutrients to apply is to carry out regular soil testing.

Intensive grassland

“In intensive grassland systems you really have to test each field for P, K, magnesium and pH at least every three years but there is a strong case for testing more this year – particularly on fields with borderline pH targets, and indexes of 2 and 2- for P and K respectively.”

Sulphur is also likely to have been removed from the system in a significant quantity this year. A major component of the protein-forming amino acids, it is essential when higher amounts of nitrogen are applied.

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