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Opportunities for livestock farmers to improve performance from forage are at unprecedented heights, thanks in large part to significant advancements in perennial ryegrass genetics over the past decade.

This was a key message from Ben Wixey, speaking at an agricultural merchant herbage training event at IBERS Aberystwyth University organised by forage specialist Germinal GB.

He pointed to improvements in perennial ryegrass digestibility in particular, which have been achieved alongside continuing uplifts in dry matter yield, disease resistance and persistency.

“The simplest way to measure the improvement in grassland potential is to look at the ME yield/hectare that is now possible from the best performing varieties on the Recommended Grass and Clover List.

“If we compare one of newest varieties onto the list, the late diploid perennial ryegrass AberBann, with the average of all other recommended varieties, this represents an advantage of just over 11,000MJ/ha. With 5.4MJ required to produce one litre of milk, that equates to about 2,000 litres/ha, or £500/ha at a milk price of 25ppl.

“To tap into this potential, farmers should reseed their grassland routinely, in order to maintain sward quality and – to be sure they are accessing the best available genetics – they should always consult the Recommended Grass and Clover List when buying seeds mixture. By implementing a reseeding programme, managing sward quality, and aiming for optimum utilisation, the potential to produce more from homegrown forage is there for most livestock farmers.”

Mr Wixey, National Agricultural Sales Manager for Germinal GB, was one of a group of speakers addressing representatives of the agricultural merchant trade at the company’s annual Herbage Training Course. This forum for knowledge exchange covers a range of topics around forage breeding and utilisation, with the aim of helping key influencers work with farmers to improve business sustainability.