Agronomy Advice
February 27, 2024

Tips for a Successful First Cut

That first cut of grass will be your most valuable cut of the year - it’s the most economical to make and usually has the highest quality.

Farm Fields

So it’s only natural that you want to make the most out of it; a successful first cut reduces the pressure on the rest of the year. The challenge is to balance out maximising yield without compromising on quality. So, here are a few tips on how to make the most of that first cut?

  • If there is dead material at the base of your silage swards in February then it can reduce the D-value of your silage by up to 5 units. If slurry hasn’t been applied yet, then grazing these swards off quickly would improve the end product. 
  • Walk fields regularly to assess how your grass crop is progressing and respond to what you see quickly
  • Protect your fields by reducing soil compaction. This is something I talked about in my last article, but it is something we can’t afford to ignore. Compacted soil results in an accumulated yield loss of at least 3t/ha. At this time of the year, when soil is wet, the best thing we can do is avoid travelling on it until conditions improve. We’d also advise looking into umbilical slurry systems.
  • Fertilise based on need, not out of habit: take a precise approach to nutrition. We’ve been saying it for years - taking a precise approach to farming should deliver you plentiful yields whilst protecting your land now and for future generations as well as preserving the environment.

How to take a precise approach to grass growth

Your starting point needs to be to understand what you have and what growing grass needs. Use historical data for your farm and blend with more up-to-date information such as soil analysis and slurry readings. Once you know what your starting point is, you can then build a nutrition plan that gives grass everything it needs to flourish, whilst keeping a close eye on the investment required and minimising excess.

By knowing what nutrients you’re spreading through your slurry, you can perhaps reduce your reliance on bought-in fertiliser, or at least get a fertiliser grade which will be a better fit when spread in the same programme as your slurry; giving your growing grass exactly what it needs to reach its potential.

Here are a few more tips to improve your precision:

  1. Develop a nutrient management plan on a field-by-field basis, using Section 3 of RB209 to identify correct nitrogen rates.
  2. Don’t rush to spread your fertiliser straight after spreading slurry in early March, wait until mid-March. The N requirement of grass at this time is fairly low so your slurry should be enough until the demand starts to increase towards the end of March.
  3. If your fields have a soil P and K index of 2 or less, then invest in a high quality NPKS fertiliser. Don’t undermine your investment in nitrogen by neglecting other nutrients - as Liebig’s law states: “A deficiency of any single nutrient is enough to limit yield.”
  4. Have a field-by-field approach - you may need a range of fertiliser products 
    to address the differing nutrient requirements of your fields.

“Ultimately, the best way to improve your first cut yield is to have a plan and respond to changing conditions, such as the weather, appropriately and quickly. By taking a precise approach to grassland farming, you’ll see the benefits in yields, quality and reduced input costs.”