Grass growth has caught up following the delayed start to the season, but strategic use of after-cut fertiliser will be a must for those farmers looking to ensure the forage larder is full for the winter ahead.

Recent grass growth patterns are encouraging too, providing farmers with the opportunity to replenish stocks and make up for the lighter than usual first cuts seen on some farms, according to Graham Ragg, senior agronomist and product manager with Mole Valley Farmers.

“Up until mid-April, we were well below average for grass growth, but in the last five-six weeks, average weekly grass growth across the UK is 40% above normal,” said Graham.

“That is making up for the terrible start to the year, but we’re going to have to push grass all the way through the season to make sure we produce enough, quality silage for the winter period."

He said strategic use of after-cut fertiliser will be vital to maximising yields, with the current warm, moist conditions meaning that farmers can be assured of a good response, with fertiliser applied now, bringing twice the response to that applied in July to August.

To promote rapid, quality re-growth, applying product immediately after cutting is a must, considering every day delayed will result in about a 2% reduction in yields.

Graham also advised farmers to consider applying a blended product, as this type of fertiliser will be absorbed quicker in drier conditions versus a compound.

For ground with sufficient levels of phosphate (P), a Nitrogen (N) Potassium (K) blend with Sulphur, such as a 24:0:15 +7.5, could be used. When low P indices are a problem, a NPK after-cut blend with sulphur – such as a 22:4:14 +10 – would be preferable, he said.

It’s also worth considering that the current very good grass growing conditions could mean that around three units per acre of nitrogen are being utilised per day at present, rather than the average two units of nitrogen per acre per day utilisation for the whole growing season, which could impact on management.

“Bear this in mind as you may be able to use more fertiliser between cuts, get a better response from it and get bigger quantities of second cut,” said Graham.

He highlighted the continued importance of maximising silage quality, as well as quantity. With this in mind, adhering to six week cutting intervals on perennial ryegrass leys or five weeks on Italian ryegrass or hybrid leys, is advisable.

Furthermore, he recommended using a proven silage additive to help reduce clamp dry matter losses and boost quality. “Where proper, animal trials have been carried out, using a proven additive has been show to boost ME levels by 0.5MK/kgDM and lead to a 1.2 litre a cow a day increase in yields.”