- Grasses as valuable forage and natural food

- Seeding and renovation of natural grasslands

- The importance of calcium in grassland


  • Our quality requirements
  • Our grass mixtures meet the requirements of the SAATGUT AUSTRIA association, determining their suitability for different regions and permanent grassland use.  
    Varietal selection criteria: sustainability, health and yield, verified by AGES, LFZRaumberg-Gumpenstein, Bavarian agricultural services and through private trials.
    The quality of varieties and mixtures is continuously tested and through their application in practice.
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    Many hectares of own breeding of different clovers and grasses in Austria: quality control and increased added value in agriculture.

"Cows eat grass"
For those who want to know more

On first glance, the statement "cows eat grass" is correct and describes what these animals have adapted to in the course of evolution. In nature, in the absence of the human factor, cows seek fresh grass, at some point complete their walk and return to the place from which they started; or they move in a large circle.

From this perspective, nature has provided only 1-2 subgrowths for cattle. In a natural environment, cows give birth at the same time and the food available is sufficient for the period of intense milk production after calving. As autumn approaches, calves drink less and less milk, feed becomes scarce and stale, and mothers start building up food reserves to get through the difficult winter and reduce milk production. In nature, grass would be the only food for the cows.

What food do cows need?

Cows have been domesticated to be a source of milk for humans throughout the year. For this reason, "milk suppliers" had to be kept close to the houses and could no longer follow the fresh grass themselves, but were sent purposefully to nearby pastures and meadows. Forage supplies had to be gathered for the winter, and the grass had to ripen to be sufficient. Subsequently, concentrated fodder was added to this rough grass to provide the necessary nutrients for the growth, preservation and development of the newborns, as well as for milk production.

Wherever we look, grass is the most natural and suitable feed for cows. This is why evolution has created nature's specialised 'fermenter' - the rumen. In it live countless bacteria, single-celled organisms, fungi and moulds in a very precise ecological balance with many niches or cells.

Each of these niches is responsible for the degradation and absorption of certain cellular contents. Digestive processes occur in the rumen of cows that are not possible or at least not as well developed in other mammals. Grass provides the 'fermenter' with all the substances and substrates it needs: energy in the form of carbohydrates; nitrogen in the form of proteins; minerals, trace elements, fats and much more. Last but not least, the grass provides the rumen with particles of the right length to build something like a mat, a diaper. It acts like a sponge that absorbs and retains the nutrients, and subsequently releases them gradually to pass them on to the decomposing bacteria. In fact, the rumination process in cattle would not be possible if their rumen did not have such a biofilm. Unfortunately, we often forget that only a healthy and well-functioning rumen guarantees healthy, fertile and long-lived cows with high milk production.

Since grass for fodder is only harvested during the flowering period, it cannot be relied upon alone for highly productive and healthy animals. That is to say, it must be combined with another type of forage. Grass can even be replaced by other whole plants, e.g. maize or wheat silage. Such an approach could be successful, yet excellent results and good animal health can also be achieved with proper grass management and a selected amount of concentrated forage.

Here we want to emphasise 'proper management'. Whether we are talking about pasture itself, hay or silage, through good management grass remains an interesting and suitable forage for modern livestock. Good selection of plant resources according to soil, location, altitude, climate and intensity of farming activity is a must. Fertilisation is also an important factor which must meet the requirements listed. For these reasons, good grass stands are not a given, but are achieved with hard work.

In addition to the usual mixed species of permanent pasture, grasses and legumes can be sown for fodder in accordance with the geographical situation and climatic conditions.   

Grass in cattle feeding - what is important?

The cell wall of plants is made of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, which lies between them.  Cellulose and hemicellulose are carbohydrates that are broken down by microorganisms in the rumen to volatile fatty acids (mainly acetic acid). Lignin is considered indigestible nowadays. As the grass matures, its cell walls thicken and lignin reserves increase to give the plant strength. Increasing cell wall thickness and lignin accumulations lead to a slowing of the decomposition process in the rumen. Feed with a high cell wall content is difficult to digest. It stays in the rumen for a long time, but not until complete degradation. That is to say, late harvested grass with a high cell wall and lignin content fills the rumen but fails to be completely digested and the necessary nutrients extracted. At the same time, there is no room left in the animal's rumen for more nutrient-rich and more easily digestible food.

The aim must therefore be to collect young grass. At the same time, the grass mixtures used should contain species that live as long as possible and without abundant lignin accumulation. This accumulation varies between grasses in a mixture. Unfortunately, weather conditions do not always allow harvesting to take place at the most optimal time. Grass crops must be 'resilient' and their individual components must not mature too quickly or accumulate lignin too rapidly.

Since grass is a fast-degrading energy source, it contains different types of sugars, however, the amount of starch is very small. Sugars and starches are also carbohydrates, but they reach the microorganisms in the rumen faster than cellulose and hemicellulose. The rumen microflora is by nature better equipped to process sugars than starches. Unfortunately, high sugar contents are still defined as "dangerous" by many experts because of their accelerated passage through the rumen, which can lead to liquefaction of manure.

This overlooks the fact that, from an evolutionary point of view, sugars break down most rapidly in cattle, and therefore could not be harmful or unsuitable. However, this does not mean that there is no good use for starch as well, but simply that the rumen microorganisms have a harder time with it than with sugars. And while high levels of sugar can be beneficial, it shouldn't be the only source of energy.
 
Proteins - a controversial issue

Protein supply in cattle is unfortunately often a hotly debated topic. Soya from abroad is increasingly rejected, rape cultivation is environmentally controversial. Many sources of protein either vary considerably in composition and quality (както е при слънчогледовото кюспе или шрот) or are only available in small quantities (кюспе от тиквено семе). Some protein foods supply little nitrogen to ruminant micro-organisms, while others are accompanied by problems in transport and storage (e.g. beer mash). It is for these reasons that the importance of grass mixtures and any other type of grass fodder for cattle production will become increasingly important in the coming years. Given the stringent fertiliser regulations, well-balanced mixtures will be needed.
 
SUMMARY

The statement "Cows eat grass" is still relevant today. Over the next few years, this conclusion will become an important and powerful argument in cattle farming. Balanced and well-managed grass stocks continue to be one of the foundations for success.

Dr. Michael Neumayer, Kompetenzzentrum fuer innovative Tierhaltung



 

Improving forage quality through reseeding

Requirements for permanent grassland are increasing. Frequent tillage and heavy machinery, as well as nutrient deficiencies (e.g. nitrogen limits), promote the establishment of some undesirable species and reduce the yield and quality of grasses grown.Permanent grassland is a very good addition to any livestock farm as it provides useful and economically viable feed for livestock. 

Goal: Better lawns

Improvements in grassland quality should be achieved by reducing common meadow-grass to a minimum, increasing the amounts of dactylis glomerata, English ryegrass, meadow broom, timothy, white clover, etc., and reducing species such as creeping buttercup, common dandelion, caraway, plantago, yarrow, anthriscus sylvestris, valerian, lovage, etc.


Reseeding

Most herbaceous plants can reproduce on their own with 2-3 cuttings per year. From the fourth cut onwards, seed formation is virtually impossible. Some species (French ryegrass, meadow fescue) cannot reproduce vegetatively by rhizomes. Often the germination phase of these plants is longer, so that they cannot regenerate with more frequent mowing and therefore disappear after a while. The selection of suitable plants is essential in maintaining lawns.

Re-seeding is a quick way to fill in constantly appearing empty spots (due to frost, moles, soil injury while working).

If lawns have not needed reseeding for a long time or never, then it is a community of plants that have adapted over the years to the given conditions (use, soil, climate, altitude). They are the main "capital" of the farmers maintaining permanent grassland.

The advantage of reseeding is that - in contrast to new establishment - the species already adapted to the area remain part of the growing area. To achieve optimum benefits from reseeding, persistence is required. It is a technique that should be a must in permanent grassland management - especially for enterprises aiming for yields of three to four or more cuttings per year.

Periodical reseeding
 

Periodic reseeding is done with about 10 kg/ha of a suitable mixture every two years.

Periodic reseeding - as well as calcium and nitrogen fertilisation - is the main method of maintaining permanent grassland.

The optimal sowing period is late August, early September. Increased dew formation provides the sprouts with the necessary moisture even in the event of low rainfall. In addition, in summer older plants do not compete as hard for resources as in spring.
Re-seeding in spring together with levelling is justified if there are many moles, but not much effect should be expected. The first generation of plants quickly develops a dense organic mass, and this does not allow the young sprouts to survive. Various striker harrows with seeding devices have already proven to be very effective. Success is assured when periodic reseeding is carried out for several years in succession. In addition, appropriate amounts of nutrients must be provided to meet the needs of the plants.

"Renovation" of lawns

During renovation, lawns are cleared of unwanted species so that new plants can be sown in their place. However, sufficient other quality grasses must be present in the area for this purpose. It is desirable that the area to be restored be properly planned and plotted.

Optimum timing: late August, early September.
Start: not before 10:00 so that there is no dew left.
Preparation: meadows should be mown as low as possible.
Stages of work:
- first raking
- collection and removal of the grass
- second cross raking
- collection and removal
- cutting and rolling
Sowing rate: according to mixture, 10-30 kg/ha

Reduce total processing time: divide the cultivated area into three parts. While the raking is in progress in the second part, the grass from the first can already be collected. Correspondingly, while the third part is being raked, the haymaker and loader work in parallel in the second part.
Maintenance of the renovated area: do not fertilise until autumn. Usually mowing of older plants is necessary so that they do not compete for light with the young sprouts.
Next year: normal fertilisation, timely mowing or ensiling. If the first mowing is delayed, there is a danger that the whole renewal will fail (the sown plants may suffocate the following year).

Seeds

We recommend quality mixtures without the content of docks and sorrels species. The choice of mixture depends on the intensity of use.

Better action of manure when reseeding

Practice shows that one hundred percent efficacy of organic nitrogen - even in the long term - is not possible. In order to maintain an efficient nitrogen cycle on the farm, i.e. for nitrogen fertilisation to have the desired effect, manure must be spread directly on the soil. Only when the nitrogen source is close to the roots of the plants can they benefit from it. Ammonium nitrogen is easily absorbed and organic nitrogen more slowly, but both must first be processed by micro-organisms in the soil to reach the plants.
Under the wrong conditions, common meadow grass forms an extremely dense and tall plant mass. When fertilised, much of the manure does not reach the soil but remains on the plants. Especially the organic nitrogen in the solid fraction remains on the surface and thus has almost no chance of being converted into a form available to the plants. Liquid and volatile ammonium nitrogen evaporates quickly, mainly in the warm summer months. This leaves our useful plants without the necessary amount of nitrogen to form a strong yield.

The greater the proportion of common meadow grass, the less nitrogen, which contributes to the growth, rapid emergence, tillering and 'competitiveness' of the plants, reaches the valuable forage grasses. The greater the amount of high quality forage grasses reached by long term intermittent seeding, the more valuable the forage and therefore the better the nitrogen action on the grass stand. 

Source: DI Peter Fruehwirth, Referent Gruenland LK OO
 
Sidenote: Manure contains a good deal of phosphorus in addition to nitrogen, so its proper application to pastures and meadows is very effective.
 
CALCIUM FOR PERMANENT GRASSLAND - THE BASE FOR HIGH-QUALITY BASIC FORAGE

A healthy and productive grassland of grasses and forbs has its own nutrient supply requirements. Calcium plays an essential role here, as it keeps the soil reaction at an optimum level and with it the assimilability of the elements in the soil, especially phosphorus. It also ensures a more intensive life of the soil microflora and fauna.

Calcium is generally applied in autumn, but can also be applied early in spring, also between slopes. Spring application of calcium also increases the protein content of the forage.

Calcium application prior to reseeding is very useful and beneficial. This improves the conditions for germination and emergence of new seeds, but valuable grasses also have high requirements for soil pH values. Soil life is more active and especially rain worms feel best at optimum acidity, so they work more efficiently on the humus balance and nutrient cycling.

Calcium helps the air regime in the soil, and thus regulates both the heat exchange and the water capacity of the soil and its moisture retention. Different types of lime or calcium-containing fertilisers can be used.

This also applies to the establishment of new pastures or plantations with perennial grasses and legumes such as alfalfa.

Source: DI Johannes Kamptner
 
Translation from German: Yana Ivanova / Evelina Marinova