May 30, 2017
An innovative iFarm project near Stranraer in southwest Scotland is boosting grassland performance from traditional beef and sheep grazing to levels that challenge the most productive Irish dairy farms.
At South Milton, Glenluce Nuffield scholar, Robert Fleming, his father John and Agrii agronomist, Lorna Galloway have also been pioneering the use of precision agronomy in forage production, boosting home-grown protein with mixed arable silages and lucerne, and improving grazing palatability and mineral status with enhanced fertilisers.
Working with SoilQuest, DLF Trifolium, Origin Fertilisers and Lancrop Laboratories over the past three years they’ve developed a recipe for massively increasing the output while reducing the input costs of the 200-cow commercial Aberdeen Angus beef business run alongside the family’s well-known Stairhaven pedigree herd.
“Correcting the pH of set-stocked pasture we hadn’t touched for over 35 years, over-seeding it with high quality grass mixes in 2015 and grazing it in carefully controlled paddocks enabled us to utilise almost 17t DM/ha last season,” explained Robert. “Something, I wouldn’t have believed we could do.
“Overall, we doubled our stocking rate on the ground and produced just under 3000 kg/ha of beef from it over a 235-day grazing season against our previous farm average of 520 kg/ha.
“With far greater precision in our liming, better quality swards, specialist fertilisation and more effective use of our slurry we also cut our nitrogen use by a third in 2016,” he added. “At the same time, extending the grazing season and upping our protein growing meant we used no concentrates at all for our rearing stock, giving us big savings in our concentrate bill. And increasing the mineral content of our grass also enabled us to save on supplement costs.”
“Lorna and the iFarm team have opened our eyes to the potential we have to improve our productivity and reduce our risk by making more from home-grown forage in a host of innovative ways,” said John. “With their help we’re transforming our whole production approach to make the very the most of the grazing abilities we’ve always concentrated on in our Stairhaven breeding.”
Current iFarm Trial Highlights
- Paddock grazing over-seeded swards generated a net margin of £5283/ha
- Spring barley & yellow lupin silage produced 5.53t protein/ha at a cost of 0.15p/kg
- Enhanced Sweet-Grass fertiliser boosted cobalt and selenium levels by 75% or more
- Lucerne established strongly to deliver 4.4t DM/ha at 17% protein in first season