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27 Nov 2023

Sweetgrass produces more palatable forage increasing fats and nutrition retention

Origin Fertilisers Hall: 11 Stand number: 210
Sweetgrass produces more palatable forage increasing fats and nutrition retention
Andrew Hall has increased his milk yield and quality while improving cow health through switching to a prescription nutrition using Origin’s Sweetgrass fertiliser

Changing to a Sweetgrass prescription fertiliser from Origin Fertilisers has contributed to making forage more palatable and has stabilised butterfats in Andrew Hall’s milk quality, which is helping him make the most of his home-grown forage crops.

Changing to a Sweetgrass prescription fertiliser from Origin Fertilisers has contributed to making forage more palatable and has stabilised butterfats in Andrew Hall’s milk quality, which is helping him make the most of his home-grown forage crops.

Providing his herd with a nutritionally balanced supply of forage has always been an essential aim for midlands farmer Andrew Hall, to not only maintain milk quality and increase yields, but reduce his reliance on bought-in concentrates.

The second-generation Midlands farm,  has a herd of 154 Ayrshires, along with eight Jerseys. All the milk is sold on contract to Muller, and although the quality of the final product has remained good, Mr Hall regularly sees cows struggle retaining grass in the rumen for long enough to realise the nutritional benefits.

As a knock-on effect, the butterfat content of the milk tended to fluctuate, and he would incur penalties with the milk buyer on occasions that it slipped too low. The loose nature of the herd meant the nutritional value of the grass wasn’t fully digestated: “It didn’t matter how good the grass was as it wasn’t able to stay inside them long enough for the nutrients to be broken down. That is no good for them and no good for us,” says Mr Hall.

 

Conscious it was costing his business money, he investigated trialling a new fertiliser strategy, switching from CAN to a Sweetgrass tailored fertiliser from Origin Fertilisers, offering a balanced approach to the nutrient profile aimed at increasing grass palatability. “I believe plants can only use so much straight nitrogen, so it is about balancing the inputs. I read about a different approach to grassland fertiliser applications and thought it was worth a go to try and solve my problems.”

 

 

The Sweetgrass blend Mr Hall choose was a 23N, 0P, 0K + 5Na + 5SO3  applied across three applications of 50kg N/ha, at monthly intervals in the spring. Mr Hall aims to take three cuts from his silage ground for winter forage stocks, with the rest down to grazing and 30ha of maize. Solid farmyard manure is applied to the fields after grazing and has always been sufficient to maintain P and K levels across the farm.

 

 

The yield has increased by a considerable amount and Mr Hall has invested in a bigger milk tank as the cows have never milked so well in the spring.

 

Sodium key for palatability

 

 

The addition of sodium in the blend has helped increase palatability of the sward, which is key for optimum grass utilisation by the cows. This has maximised the uptake and reduced the need to supplement grass with as much concentrate, as the fat content has been maintained to a good level.

Mr Hall continued: “We have never applied sodium directly, but its addition has increased the palatability of the sward to the cows and allowed them to graze tighter and make the most from the young leaves.”

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