‘Reseeding has given us an extra 4.5 tonnes of grass per hectare
Meath farmer Peter Mongey has been reseeding a portion of his land for over 20 years and says that as the quality of reseeds has improved, so too have yields, reports Michael Keaveny
How much reseeding do you do every year?
I try to reseed 10-15pc of my milking platform every year in the spring. My silage ground is away from my milking platform, so I aim to reseed it all in one go every five or six years, after the third cut of silage in September. Because it’s away from the milking block we do it all together to keep things fresh.
In the years we reseed the silage ground, we cut silage a little bit earlier, and then it’s closed until the spring. It’s not a big ordeal to do the out farms, it’s more difficult to get the platform done.
Why did you start reseeding?
I started reseeding 20 years ago. I used to work part-time for a local seed merchant called Tom McGuinness.
Peter Mongey says he could see an immediate improvement in milk volumes after beginning to reseed part of his milking platform
I used to deliver seed and you could see farmers who were reseeding every year and the benefit that they were getting from it so it was a no brainer that we should be doing it as well. Working with Tom I was getting the best seeds, the most up to date information and I could see what worked for others.
I buy from him now. He lives nearby and knows all my fields very well and can offer me the best, tailored advice on each paddock. We’ve been getting him so long he knows our land as well as we do.
What methods do you use for reseeding?
Originally, we were ploughing all our reseeds but now we just burn off fields using round up and stitch it in. I haven’t used a plough in 12 years unless a field has been badly poached. With stitching the grass comes back a lot quicker. There is no stone picking as well.
With ploughing, there was a good bit more weed afterwards as well. When I started stitching, I found I didn’t have to use a post-emergence spray.
I use a kilo of clover with each seed mix and I find sprays that are clover friendly aren’t that powerful anyway. The farm is very clean from weeds.
When I’m reseeding a field, I let it grow a little bit stronger than I would if I was grazing it, maybe with a cover of 1600kg. I burn it off, leave it for five days and either graze it or bale it, then we’re ready to go.
After reseeding we might do a light grazing on it after three weeks. But it is usually between 5-7 weeks by the time we can get back in on a reseeded paddock for a full grazing of 1400 kg. I include at least four grass varieties in the mix so if one fails there are others there.
What are the main benefits you’ve seen from reseeding?
I started grass measuring in 2007 and back then we were growing 13 tonnes of grass per hectare.
But as the quality of reseeds has improved our grass growth has increased. Now we grow 17.5 tonne on average, it’s maxed out at that.
When we started reseeding, we had a small platform of 10 Ha with 50 cows. It was hard to take a piece out for reseeding because we were
heavily stocked, we used to have to buffer feed for a while. But I could see the benefits of it immediately. Once the cows went back into it they gave more milk. We made a priority to do more. Getting the initial start was the hardest part, but as we reseeded more, we were growing more so that took the pressure off over time.
We had 10 ha in our original platform, and we were able to add to this by buying more land and doing a land swap. This enabled us to join up the milking platform with the rented land to increase the over all platform to 29 ha. The rented land wasn’t part of the platform, but the new land enabled us to connect it to the platform.
This increase in land enabled me to increase my milking herd from 50 to 110 cows.
I got a heifer rearer in Julianstown Co. Meath which enabled me to open the whole platform for the milking cows. I’ve had to increase my facilities, I’ve built new roadways, extended the milking parlour, increased slurry storage, extended roadways, etc. It’s only started humming this past few years.
How important is pH for reseeding?
We reseeded the out block a few years ago. One of the paddocks in the block didn’t perform as well as other fields beside it that were reseeded at the same time. The pH wasn’t good enough in it. So we worked hard on improving the soil fertility, by adding lime. It did ok for a year but it never really came up to scratch. In the end, we ended up having to reseed it again. Reseeding may temporarily paper over the cracks but pH is vital if you want your reseed to progress