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Christmas Cracker Quiz

Date Added: 22/12/2016

Fingers on buzzers teams, this is your starter for 10 What is the common thread connecting these three items: a red number three, a cola tin and a golf ball?

You may confer.

Do you give in or do you have the answer?  It is of course “grassland management.”

Let me offer my explanation. Three is the maximum number of leaves that a ryegrass produces before the oldest leaf begins to die. Red to a reddish purple colour is the colour of the base of the rye grass plant. This is a good identification point and should be used when looking at the composition of a ley. If less than 50% of the plants have a "red bottom" you should seriously consider re-seeding, as you are not getting the maximum output from the ley.

 It took me a while to understand the implications behind the three leaf idea. Grazing too soon will result in an imbalanced mix of energy and protein in the grass leading to poor production.  Additionally, the grass plant grows much quicker as it builds up to three leaves.  Grazing before this is effectively cutting it off before its prime and wasting output.  While on the subject of leaf number, I personally wince when I see cattle grazing hay or silage aftermath where the stubble has only just produced one true leaf. This is because the first leaf uses the sugars stored in the bottom 4cm of the tiller. It is an unbalanced feed as it is high in nitrate, low in sugar, low in calcium and magnesium and also high in potassium.

 Moving on to the cola tin. It is the easiest way to measure 10cms.  This is the height in grass which indicates 2900kgs of dry matter per hectare in the ley.  This is as near perfection as you will get when trying to optimise output from the cheapest source of nutrition for a ruminant.  Yes, you could use a sward stick or spend cash (very unlikely) on a plate meter to measure the grass, but as a good guide, the cola can will suffice.

Last, what about the golf ball?  Surely a mistake to mention the hard white missile of the Belfry or St Andrews?   No, I require an easily accessible indicatior to show when the cattle need to be removed from the paddock. At this newly grazed-off moment, there is still enough leaf area on the grass plant to enable it to grow away rapidly and produce another three leaved plant in anywhere between 18 and 28 days depending on the stage of the season. I  understand the importance of minimising cash outlay and am not suggesting that you go out and buy a box of ‘Dixon Fire’ golf balls at $74.95 per dozen. No, any scruffy, bashed up golf ball will do, as all you need is an easy way to measure 4cm of ryegrass leaf.  This enables the plant to have a flying start when it re-grows.

So teams, whilst none of you probably made the connection, I am hopeful that, armed with this information, you will be able to manage your grassland more effectively next season.  If the level of ryegrass in your grassland has dropped below 50%, contact your local United Oilseeds Area Manager to discuss how Hubbards grass seed mixtures can be used to re-seed and generate optimum results.

Merry Christmas

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