The financial implications of this year’s drought are starting to be realised, with rapidly rising feed costs and falling production. For some dairy businesses, this year’s forage shortfall could be terminal, so having a cost-effective system that is able to withstand extreme conditions is vital.
Part of the solution to withstand these pressures is to have crops that can cope with dry periods/drought, therefore crops with deep rooting systems. Legumes and particularly lucerne, red clover and sainfoin are the most drought resistant, with white clover being better than grass. Mixtures of grass and clover species have proved to be more resilient than single species swards of either grass or legumes. The addition of more deep rooting herbs will improve drought tolerance.
Grazing lucerne is not common in the UK, but widely practised in the continent and in Australia. Of the conserved forage, legumes and forage maize are better suited than pure grass swards. A common problem with legumes is crop establishment; the most common error is planting depth. The very small seeded clovers need to be planted at less than 5 mm of depth, but good seed soil contact is required. Germination of some of the legumes can be slow and therefore may take a while, this is particularly the case with lucerne and sainfoin.
If you would like to know more about legumes, please contact your local FCG office or William at firstname.lastname@example.org