Grass is the cheapest feed available on farm and, if managed correctly, it offers significant potential to reduce the cost of production. However, crops can be extremely variable in terms of quality and quantity, so targeted investment into aftercut nutrition is key to realise the potential of the leys.
The risk is that producers may cut corners in an attempt to reduce costs. However, the effect of this will be felt further down the line. Slurry alone or straight nitrogen will result in reduced yields and lower quality, which will ultimately impact and reduce animal performance and increase the need to purchase additional costly feed.
Therefore, fertiliser requirements need to be carefully considered - noting that sulphur is a particular element which is often overlooked.
Sulphur is proven to increase protein and sugar levels as well as yield, regardless of soil type and sward age. Historically, rain has provided sufficient sulphur to the ground. However, due to industry reducing emissions, this is no longer the case and 96 percent of crops are now lacking sulphur.
Sulphur levels have been further hampered this year by the high winter rainfall which has caused nutrient leaching.
The value of sulphur is something that Mr Lister, a dairy farmer from Sibbersfield Lane Farm in Chester, recognises having seen significant benefits since including CF Fertiliser's KayNitro Sulphur in his fertiliser programme.
"Since using the product, I've seen an improvement in the colour of the grass and a definite increase in yield in comparison to when I applied straight nitrogen. This has been particularly noticeable on ground that has had less muck and on the outlying fields that aren't able to be grazed.
"We do four cuts of silage every year. Quality, followed closely by yield, is of upmost importance for us. Including sulphur in the compound is well worth the investment, and I will be applying KayNitro again this year as soon as the field conditions allow me to get my first cut off."
Considerable gains can be made by taking a considered, targeted approach to fertiliser applications. It's important to achieve the right balance, as putting on too little, or conversely more than you need, will be detrimental to profit margins.