Farmers looking to increase the amount of protein produced off farm may be interested in a new unique grass mixture that can be used as a catch crop and an alternative to maize.
ProtoPlus from Barenbrug is a spring sown mixture of the tetraploid Italian Ryegrass Barmultra 11, the Crimson Clover Blaza and the Persian clover Laser. It is a mixture designed to give maximum summer cuts of high protein silage from spring sowing, followed by an autumn and winter grass grazing sward suitable for sheep and over-wintering cattle.
Speaking to Farmers Weekly, Barenbrug's James Ingles said it could be an alternative to maize and used as a catch crop. "ProtoPlus would be brilliant for finishing lambs on or used in areas where maize can't be grown. Using it as a break crop also means nitrogen is returned to the land from the red clover content."
The clover will last one year in the ley, with the ryegrass lasting until the second year. "In the first year you can expect crude protein levels of 18% coming down to 15-16% in the second year," he said.
About 24ha of the new mixture has been sown on 10 different farms this spring. Mr Ingles added: "the mixture wasn't sown until the ground warmed up in early May to give the clover the best establishment conditions and the best opportunity of beating weeds."
Organic sheep farmer Alex Allison who farms a 142ha organically near Edinburgh said it had given him a good crop of silage and forage for the lambs. He sowed 7ha of the mixture in late May and took a cut of silage in mid-August before putting a crop of lambs on it. "With us having difficulty getting a copy of rape and kale, it gave us good quality feed for the lambs and there should be a real nitrogen benefit for the soil," he said.
Another sheep producer William Tweedie, Biggar said after sowing ProtoPlus in early June and putting lambs on it in the first week of August he has 50 lambs away for slaughter within a fortnight, "After that we put a further 200 on it and 150 of them were away within two weeks," he said.
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