Home-grown Forage

Home-grown Forage

Maximise feed efficiency through home-grown forage on farm

Specialist Nutrition focuses on helping farmers improve feed efficiency through forage utilisation. Allowing them to get the most from grazed grass and home-grown forage, then moist feeds and finally, make up any remaining deficit with concentrates and other purchased feeds.

We will look at maximising the feed efficiency of grass, using quality silage as the nutritional cornerstone of your farm and looking at opportunities to boost home-grown forage.

On this page:

  • Selecting the right grass mixture
  • Multi-species sward
  • Clover in the sward
  • Increasing silage quality
  • Using more forage crops
  • Choosing a forage crop to grow

The Sward

Grazed grass is the cheapest feed available to Irish farmers, and during the grazing season, animal performance is achieved almost entirely from grazed grass.
Research shows that each extra tonne of grass dry matter utilised is worth €181 and €105/ha per year to dairy and drystock farmers, respectively.
Sowing a grass mixture that produces high yields of quality forage throughout the season is key to maximising grass utilisation on farms.

Select grass mixtures with 5* Tetraploid varieties for better grazing utilisation.
• Excellent grazing utilisation
• High yields across the grazing season
• Excellent quality and palatability for excellent animal performance
• Excellent persistence

Why target reseeding 10-15% of your grazing platform each year?
• Productivity – reseeding will give you higher producing swards with superior quality
• Animal Performance – increase daily liveweight gain and milk production
• Nitrogen Efficiency – new swards can use nitrogen more efficiently
• Economics – due to our favourable climate, grazed grass is the least expensive form of feed on Irish farms


Make multi-species part of your rotation

As well as producing high yields of quality forage, sowing multi-species can lead to a significantly reduced nitrogen fertiliser requirements as well as increased animal performance and health.
Having a mixture of grass and multi-species swards on the grazing platform will ensure a steady supply of the highest quality forage through spring, summer, and autumn, buffering against drought and reducing the cost of forage production.

Managing clover in the sward

The incorporation of white clover into grass swards has the potential to significantly reduce the reliance on inorganic nitrogen fertiliser and increase the financial and environmental sustainability of Irish farms.

The use of white clover in grass mixtures can offset up to 150kg N/ha per year in inorganic N fertiliser. This is equivalent to 7 bags of 18.6.12/acre.

If you have any questions on making the most from your grazing platform or incorporating forage crops into your farm's rotation, please give a member of our team a call 051 833071


Ensiling quality forage

Quality silage is the nutritional cornerstone of your farm

Increasing silage quality will improve forage quality, boost production, reduce waste and improve farm profitability. Cutting both invisible and visible clamp losses is an essential part of feeding more of what you grow.

Achieving fast and efficient fermentation is vital if you want to produce high-quality grass silage. For farmers aiming to make high-quality silage, including an additive can significantly help improve silage fermentation and quality. The controlled microbial fermentation of forages helps preserve their nutritional value all year round.

3 steps to improving silage as the nutritional cornerstone of your forage:
1. Precut cut test to optimise cutting dates
2. Use silage additive to speed up fermentation and preserve pit and dry matter at feedout
3. Test silage and balance diets accordingly

Overall, if you can increase the ME of your silage by 1 MJ, this can produce up to 4L extra milk, depending on the feeding rate.

Take control of your forage quality this year!


The Forage

Maximising milk production from home-grown forage and reducing the cost of bought-in feed on farm remains a key driver for increasing farm profitability.

Home-grown forage, whatever the crop will always be cheaper than buying compound feed. Beet, wholecrop cereals and maize bring flexibility into the feed system, complimenting grass silage and being high energy forages, helping reduce bought-in feeds. While brassicas such as forage rape, kale and stubble turnip help to extend the grazing period for both dairy cows, beef cattle and young stock.

As production costs continue to grow, fodder crops such as kale, forage rape, swede, stubble turnip, beet and wholecrop cereals offer beef and dairy farmers a low cost feeding option.

Using more forage crops in your system

Specialist Nutrition offers a full range of forage crops from high yielding harvested crops like beet, maize and wholecrop to in-situ grazed brassicas. To determine which option suits best, consider the window for growing the crop, rotation, site and intended use.

As well as making great year-round feed, forage crops provide a great break allowing for the control of any serious weed problems.

Forage crops

Because forage crops have different compositions of moisture and energy, as well as varying production, and storage and handling demands, it is difficult to compare their values like for like.

- Arable Forages – Forage Rye & Triticale, Wholecrop, Forage Rye, Maize

Arable forage are a great option for farms budgeting to be low on winter forage or looking to add additional energy to diets without purchasing excessive amounts of compound feed.

- Forage Brassica – Forage Rape, Kale, Swedes, Stubble Turnip and Beet

For farms with limited shed space or farmers looking to outwinter stock, forage brassicas can be grazed during the autumn and winter giving farmers flexibility and helping manage winter feed costs.

Although a brassica, fodder beet is not usually grazed in-situ, and is instead harvested over the autumn and winter months and utilised as part of a TMR diet or fed directly to housed livestock. The root crop should be chopped to prevent choking.


If you have any questions on making the most from your grazing platform or incorporating forage crops into your farm's rotation, please give a member of our team a call 051 833071

As moist feed and forage specialists, Specialist Nutrition aims to help farmers improve farm returns by optimising the yield and quality of the forage they produce.

Taking a structured approach to your forage plan will help budget for the feed demands for the year ahead and navigate the key forage decisions to be considered in the months ahead.