Five ways to see sustainability and efficiency go hand in hand

Monday 15.11.2021 , news

Underlined by this month’s COP26, the global spotlight is firmly placed on the environment and achieving net zero.

For livestock farmers, a core area of focus when looking to reduce carbon emissions is increasing the efficiency of their grassland. Productive grassland can help to improve the efficiency of livestock production and reduce the need for bought-in feed, as well as helping to sequester carbon in the soil.

“Grassland is the UK’s largest crop, totalling around 12.5m hectares,” says Paul Billings, Germinal GB’s managing director. “With two billion tonnes of carbon believed to be sequestered in our grassland soils, it’s the UK’s biggest carbon sink and holds more carbon per hectare than forestry.

“As well as the carbon sequestered in our grassland soils, grassland vegetation contains around nine billion tonnes of carbon, with plants capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Productive and efficient grassland is central to food and energy security, with its sustainable use and management a fundamental part of achieving net zero.”

We suggest five ways to achieve efficient and sustainable production:

1. Select your grass seed carefully

Germinal’s range of Aber High Sugar Grasses (Aber HSG) is a new generation of grasses scientifically proven to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ruminant livestock. Aber HSG varieties contain higher levels of water-soluble carbohydrates (sugars), and therefore energy, than conventional ryegrasses. Using this energy, rumen bacteria convert more of the plant protein into meat and milk. And with less protein wasted, ammonia and methane emissions are reduced, combining productivity and performance with sustainability.

2. Integrate forage crops into your rotation

Integrating forage crops such as brassicas, lucerne, or swedes into the rotation brings many benefits. Both brassicas and lucerne provide a source of protein and reduce the need for bought-in feed. High-energy swedes also offer a great option for autumn or winter grazing, reducing feed and housing costs during this period. Learn more more about growing brassicas.

3. Consider using multi-species leys

If you’re planning on reseeding in spring, consider a multi-species ley. Increasing sward diversity benefits soil health and structure, resilience, forage quality and livestock performance. Multi-species leys typically include a mix of grass species, legumes and herbs, with their complementary properties bringing different benefits. For example, including clovers in the sward helps fix nitrogen in the soil, reducing use of N fertiliser. Adding the deep-rooting herb plantain enhances drought tolerance and develops soil structure, as well as providing a protein and mineral-rich addition to livestock diets.

4. Think about methods of establishment

Establishment is a critical part of reseeding and the new ley’s future performance, so it’s important to choose the method most appropriate for your system and soil.

  • Ploughing – A good option where soil compaction is an issue and ensures good seed-to-soil contact. But it can be expensive, dry out lighter soils, damage soil biology and bring less fertile soil and weed seed banks to the surface
  • Minimum tillage (Min-till) – Often a cheaper option which allows a quicker return to grazing and avoids little disturbance of the topsoil, ideal in stony and shallow soils. Preparation is important with thatch or trash broken up and buried to create a fine, level seed bed
  • Direct drilling – Useful for renewing rotationally grazed pastures. Preparation is, again, central to its success with all dead material removed before drilling

5. Integrate livestock

This may seem obvious to farmers already grazing livestock, but have you considered grazing your silage leys at least once a year? Grazing benefits soil health in several ways, including water infiltration, soil aeration and treading in organic matter. Livestock manure also adds nutrients back in to aid growth. Good soil health is the foundation of a productive grassland.

Good grassland management is a powerful tool in effective and sustainable livestock production. We continue to support farmers in this through innovation and working to develop products fit for the future. To connect with one of our specialists and learn more about how Germinal’s climate smart products can help your farm, click here.

Related

Aber High Sugar Grasses
(Aber HSG)

Brassica Growers’ Guide
 

Grassland Reseeding Guide
 

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