Forage outlook and options for 2024
The climate is keeping us on our toes and this year (2023) has been no exception. It calls for flexibility and agility when it comes to growing forage crops. Limagrain’s forage crop manager John Spence sows some seeds of ideas on future proofing home grown feed supplies going forward.


“We’re ending the year with decent stores of grass and maize silage, but this doesn’t tell the full story,” says John Spence. “A cold late spring delayed grass growth, then for most grass silage making started well, until heavy rain arrived.

John Spence_Forage Manager_Oct21 (1)Hot and dry conditions weren’t as extreme as 2022, but some were affected with poor grass growth, then some respite and good grass growth through a mild autumn until heavy rain put some areas under water at worst and at best caused the late sowing of forage catch crops which will certainly hamper their yield and quality.

So farmers are faced with balancing more extreme weather conditions and the drive to improve sustainability and economic viability by producing more feed value from home grown forages.

“Marrying the two is quite a challenge,” adds Mr Spence.

“Agility and flexibility are key when it comes to planning. Avoid planning everything in stone and being too rigid with the cropping.”


Forage choices

The dairy system will determine forage options, with more alternatives typically possible in grazing herd situations. “A herd housed full time will usually rely on conserved high quality silages. “This has to remain the priority,” says Mr Spence. “But introducing forages like fodder beet and forage rye can really boost output from homegrown forages, as well as opting for higher production grass seed mixtures and clovers.

“Grazed herds can consider kale too, and some brassicas like Skyfall that ‘bounces back’, in effect giving two grazing crops, through summer which can take the pressure off the grass.”

Fodder beet, though, has been used in dairy cow diets for many years in areas where it can be grown on farm or locally on contract.

“This is a high energy crop, highly digestible and ‘enjoyed’ by dairy cows. We’ve tested a range of varieties in our own UK farm trials for more than 10 years and yields are consistently reliable, even in dry hot summers,” he adds.

“And new modern varieties are out-performing some of the older fodder beets. Limagrain trials consistently show the variety Fosyma to have the best dry matter yield at 14% above the control variety Magnum, and 5% above its closest rival Brick.”

Fodder beet’s feed value at 78% digestibility and 13MJ/kg of dry matter is a valuable addition to any dairy ration.

Kale might have been out of fashion. “But not anymore,” adds Mr Spence. “Here again, new varieties with improved feed value have brought the crop back into the spotlight.”

He highlights Bombardier – a relatively new kale variety with a nutritious stem and leaf with 72% digestibility in UK trials and 17% crude protein It’s sown between April and June so it can follow first cut silage and provide a valuable break crop in the grass rotation.

“A kale crop can slot into the plan for many grazing herds. It’s fast-growing so cattle can strip graze it as a buffer feed in mid-summer to take the pressure off the grass.

But it has a long shelf-life too, so it’s a useful crop for youngstock and dry cows in autumn and winter. In either situation it can be used as a break crop and followed with a grass reseed. Break crops between grass crops are increasingly important in breaking the pest cycle and improving productivity of grass leys.”

Forage rye has been particularly popular this autumn – 2023, with crops following harvest or early maturing maize varieties. It can be sown until late October and is ready for cutting or grazing in early spring, even before Italian ryegrass.

A crude protein content of 12% and an ME of 10MJ/kg DM makes it an ideal forage for late lactation or dry cows, or youngstock. And once finished, the field can go back into maize or a spring reseed.

 “A crop of rye will provide a valuable feed to eke out silages and it’s also a great crop to mop up residual nutrients and maintain soil health. The only caveat maybe sowing in a very wet autumn, but most farmers were in time this year, as the first half of autumn was warm and dry. So again, a flexible approach is needed and the will to act if conditions are right.”


Grass is king

Grass is the most important forage for most dairy farmers, and increasing its productivity and feed value should be on-going. This includes regular reseeding and taking advantage of improved grass seed mixtures and always selecting a grass seed mixture to suit the system and purpose of the crop, as well as the growing conditions and soil type.

“There are new varieties, improved grass seed mixtures and enhancements to match changing conditions. So farmers should seek advice and look for mixtures with proven trial results and good performance on UK farms and be discerning in their choices,” adds Mr Spence.

Limagrain trials in 2020 highlight the benefit of reseeding and of selecting proven mixtures. Table 1 highlights the productivity of a one year old ley and a four year old ley. The additional 45% of energy produced by the new sward was equivalent to more than 6,000 litres of milk (assuming 5.3MJ/litre).


Table 1


Age of Sward (Years)





Benefit of New Ley

1st Cut DM yield (t/ha)




ME (MJ/kg DM)




ME yield (MJ/ha)




Source: Limagrain UK Trials, May 2020


“The additional energy yield value from younger leys will increase the proportion of milk yield from home-grown forage, reduce bought-in feed costs and this will justify the cost of the reseed. Depending on the age and quality of the ley, estimates suggest the additional yield in year one of a reseed will cover its cost.”

Limagrain UK Grass Trials (1)Trials have also demonstrated the benefits of improved mixtures with proven feed values. LGAN is the accreditation given to LG mixtures that meet the company’s combined yield and feed value criteria, and table 2 shows the performance range at first cut of the one-year-old mixtures on trial.

“The best performing mixture at first cut was LGAN Quality Silage, which produced more than 7t/DM of 12.5ME silage. The trial year, 2020, was particualrly dry, so these results demonstrate the big gains that can be made by using high-feed-value mixtures.”

Table 2





DM yield (t/ha)




ME (MJ/kg)




ME yield (MJ/ha)





Stock up on clover

A forage outlook for 2024 wouldn’t be complete without highlighting the benefits of clover in grass leys.

“Any new reseed with clover in the mix or overseeding a ley with clover is eligible for an annual payment of £102 a hectare under the new SFI action NUM2 (Legumes on improved grassland),” says Mr Spence.

“This more than pays for the seed, and it brings all the benefits in soil health, nitrogen fixing and feed value. And in mid-summer, the clover provides good feed value when perennial ryegrass growth slows down.”

A lot of focus is also being placed on multispecies leys, with sustainability schemes encouraging dairy farmers to integrate them into their systems. “There are payments available under the new SFI scheme for sowing multispecies leys which will be worth investigating in the forage planning for 2024.

“There is a lot of considerations and it’s worth having an open mind to new ideas and options.”




For more info on forage options to suit your farm business, click here or download the LG Essential Guide to Forage Crops

King of the crop
LG Monarch grass seed mixtures come up trumps on North Yorkshire sheep farm

Livestock farmer Andrew Hollings relies on good quality grass for his 1,000 hill ewes and small beef herd situated in Goathland, in the North Yorkshire National Park.

The farm is a mixture of moors and lower lying grass leys. Andrew, who is the third generation of the family to farm at Liberty Hall, has a system designed to suit the area. His Swaledales and Cheviots are hardy enough for the moors. These are crossed with a Leicester tup, and the lambs are reared and finished on the lower land. Lambing starts in early April.

Farmer Andrew Hollings' LG Monarch Multispecies crop

“It’s soon enough up here,” says Andrew, who has noticed a change in conditions during his farming career. “We’ve always worked with the weather not against it,” he adds.

“We’re just 10 miles in land from Whitby and we seem to get stronger winds coming off the North Sea,” he says. “These winds are our biggest challenge. It can be very wet, then the winds pick up and they dry out the ground. Summers are drier and warmer than they were 30 years ago. These conditions are harsh on the grass crops. We have to adapt our system to maintain and improve productivity.”

Mindful that grass must remain ‘king’ on both Liberty Farm’s 93-hectares and the blocks of rented land, Andrew has become more discerning on grass seed mixture choices and he’s started using options that are more suited to conditions and to coping with the challenges, all while improving feed value and productivity.

“I want as much feed value from homegrown forages,” he adds. “I rely mainly on grazed grass and some haylage. In very dry summers, we’ve seen the ground dry up and grass becomes short. In 2022, when it was particularly dry, the feed value in the grass dropped and ewe productivity fell and there were more single lambs.”

Farmer Andrew Hollings' LG Monarch Multispecies crop

The knock-on effect of this changing weather pattern has made Andrew look more carefully at improving grass productivity to safeguard home grown forage supplies. And it’s seen a move to better quality grass seed and multispecies mixtures.

He’s taken some advice from BATA’s agronomist Rose Thompson, and in 2021, he moved to using LG Monarch mixtures; partly because their range has mixtures designed for specific environments and purposes and also because the mixtures, designed by seed breeding company Limagrain, have been tried-and-tested in UK conditions.

“I look to reseed 15 to 20 acres (six to eight hectares) a year,” adds Andrew. “Grass is the cheapest feed we have. If I can improve the quality, it pays dividends.”

He opted for LG Monarch FlexiScot, which is a long-term mixture with highly productive tetraploid and diploid rye grasses, for early growth, and Timothy and white clover varieties that mature in mid-summer and offer some drought resistance. Farmer Andrew Hollings' LG Monarch Flexiscot crop

This mixture has excellent winter hardiness, and it has been tested successfully, across Scotland and Northern England.

Andrew directly drilled the Flexiscot seed after a crop of stubble turnips which were grown as a break crop. “We put plenty of muck on the land and a bit of fertiliser when we shut it up – this is hungry land.”

In fact, Andrew soil tests the land every year. “It’s vital that we get the pH right – it’s acidic soil and we need to lime it regularly, applying about 3t/acre (1.5t/ha).”

The resulting crop was highly successful and produced a dense sward that came out very well when analysed as part of the farm’s Flock Health Plan. “It’s a mixture that I will continue with – the yield and quality in year one and two has been phenomenal.”

Sheep at Liberty Hall graze the lower-lying grass swards until mid-May when they are closed up for six weeks before cutting for haylage for feeding ewes in January to March when there’s no feed value in neither the grass nor heather.

“I’m really pleased with the amount of grass we get off it,” he adds. “The swards are yielding very well with good quality grass and they’re lasting well through summer. This mixture is a big improvement on the previous ones.”

Another mixture Andrew introduced just recently is LG Monarch Multi-species. This medium-term herbal ley grazing mixture includes later perennial ryegrass, Timothy, red and white clover, chicory, sainfoin, fescues and plantain. The legume varieties reduce fertiliser input requirements and drought resistant species see the crop thriving during summer.

Farmer Andrew Hollings' LG Monarch Multispecies crop“I sowed 13-acres (5-ha) in mid-September 2022 – just power-harrowed the field and disced in the seed. It grew well. It didn’t need fertiliser, there were no growth checks. It was ready for grazing in spring and the sward remained very green throughout the summer.

“In fact, it grew so vigorously early in the season, that we had to cut and bale some. The aftermath went on to make excellent grazing right through summer for the lambs. We’ve grown more multicut now – it’s an ideal mixture for our lower-lying fields.

“These improved mixtures prove that it’s not what the grass seed costs, but it’s what it does that’s important.”


Limagrain forage crop account manager, Henry Louth, says that Mr Hollings’s experience with specific LG Monarch grass seed mixtures demonstrate the mixture’s potential to work well in harsher conditions. Henry Louth

“This makes them ideal for upland sheep farmers,” he says.

“Limagrain promotes its LG Monarch range, particularly the Flexiscot, Multicut and Multigraze mixtures to sheep farmers. Not only do they grow well, even in less than perfect conditions, they provide high feed value. Sheep and cattle also do particularly well on these forages.”

He is also seeing more interest in the Monarch Multi-species mixture. “This is ideal for low-input grazing, and it provides a grazing crop throughout summer and in drier conditions. As the grass growth slows down, other varieties in the mixture, like chicory, keep growing.”

Find out more about our grass mixtures here

Regenerative principles support more productive grassland
A longer growing season, better quality grass and improved pest control support overall forage production, and they are all advantages of following regenerative agriculture principles.

“One key pillar of regenerative agriculture is greater plant diversity,” says Limagrain’s forage crop manager John Spence. “And it’s an area where grassland farmers can reap the benefits by growing mixtures with more species that widen the growing period and help to combat more variable climate conditions.

“For example, clovers continue to grow in mid-summer when ryegrass varieties slow up. This increases the growing season. Clover also offers nitrogen-fixing benefits.”

Likewise, deeper rooted plants included in multi-species mixtures, such as chicory and plantain, will be more productive in drought conditions whilst also improving soil structure and health.

Improve ground cover

Keeping soil covered is another regenerative pillar – and one to focus on for improved grassland productivity. “Mixtures with improved ground cover, dense swards and few bare patches are less prone to poaching in winter on wet land,” he adds. “Including clovers and herbs alongside highly productive ryegrass varieties ensures mixtures are more robust in dry summers with good ground cover, as well as increased forage output and quality.

He encourages grassland farmers to avoid leaving swards fallow between reseeds. “We recommend that farmers avoid following grass with grass immediately, particularly if there’s a pest problem, and a six-month break is good. Instead, a winter forage crop such a stubble turnips and forage rape will maintain ground cover, help to break the pest cycle, and provide extra much-needed forage for livestock.”

One of the main regenerative agriculture pillars is avoiding soil disturbance. “For grassland farmers this means direct drilling of new leys, minimum soil cultivation, and avoiding ploughing where possible. Overseeding is a good way of increasing productivity without cultivation”.

“Mixtures with tetraploid ryegrasses are good here as they complete well with existing grasses.”

Grassland farmers are already following many of the regenerative farming principles, but there’s more to be gained – specialist mixtures, forage break crops and improved practices will both support soil health and add to grassland productivity.

Financial support?

And there’s the added support from new SFI rules that could offer cash payments for making certain improvements, such as “NUM2: Legumes on improved grassland,” which offers £102/ha for introducing legumes such as white clover into existing temporary grass swards.

“It’s a win-win for many grassland farmers – more output from grassland and increased support for regenerative principles will support their businesses’ longer-term sustainability.”

Find out more about our grass mixtures here

Clover is all the rage, but watch the caveats
Clover mixes have been in high demand in the past few years. In 2022, Limagrain reported a five-fold increase in demand for its CloverPlus blend.

Forage crop manager John Spence considers this a wise choice, as long as growers adhere to some specific sowing and management ‘rules’ to ensure success.

Few need a recap of the advantages of clover in a grass sward. “Nutritional benefits and nitrogen fixing abilities are big attractions,” says Mr Spence. “Also, its soil health improvement potential and drought resilience add to its benefits.”

He finds it surprising that more farmers and growers haven’t taken advantage of clover until more recent years, particularly as inorganic fertiliser use has been falling on UK livestock farms since the early 1980s.

Nitrogen applications have halved on grassland farms, according to Defra reports, but only 13% of livestock farms include clover in all their leys, and 25% include no clover at all.

“This is surprising when you consider the high protein content of clover and its palatability in grass swards. On farm trials have shown that the D value in grass and white clover swards remains at least 2 points higher than a grass plus nitrogen fertiliser sward throughout the grazing season.”

And clover’s seasonal growth also compliments grass, as shown in Figure 1. It has a deep tap root to withstand drier conditions, so a grass clover sward will have a more even growth pattern through summer.

Fig 1

A grass sward with good white clover content can produce as much forage as a grass-only sward receiving 180kg of nitrogen per hectare. “This is equivalent to 520kg of ammonium nitrate fertiliser a hectare and worth about £220 per hectare based on current fertiliser prices of £420/t.”

Red clover is more impressive and can fix up to 250kg of nitrogen per hectare, but even at 200kg per hectare, this is worth £240 a hectare.

White clover is commonly used in grazing leys, though the popularity of red clover in shorter term silage mixtures is growing primarily to increase protein content. Also red and white form a major part of most multispecies and herbal grazing leys.

Mr Spence points out important considerations when sowing clover.  “Clover isn’t as vigorous as grass, so it needs careful sowing to promote establishment. The main hurdle is soil temperature. Clover will only grow when soil temperatures are above 8°C, whereas grass will germinate at 5°C. If it’s too cold for the clover, it will be outcompeted by the grass species.”

The combination of needing warmer soil temperature, plus the loss of clover safe herbicides have put growers off using clovers in the past. “Although these issues still remain, an increased focus on soil health and the recent surge in fertiliser prices have seen growers coming back to clover.”

To ensure success, clover is best sown in May or June. It can be oversown into a grass sward that has been cut or grazed tightly, so that competition from the existing sward is minimised.

The ground must be prepared by harrowing to remove any dead thatch, and to ensure good seed to soil contact.

If reseeding is scheduled for late spring, after first cut silage or a first round of grazing, then clover can be included in the grass seed mixture. “But, again, soil temperatures must be high enough and it must be sown into a carefully harrowed fine tilth to speed up its establishment and ensure it can compete with the grasses in the mix.

A biostimulant seed treatment will also help to improve germination.

Clover seed is small, and so has limited energy reserves, making establishment trickier, particularly when sown into the competitive environment of an existing grass sward.

“But establishment rates can be increased significantly (by using a pelleted and treated seed.

“This makes the seed larger and heavier so increasing the likelihood of good soil contact. It also helps to achieve better distribution when the seed is broadcasted, and it is easier to calibrate. Pelleted seed is by far the preferred type of seed for oversowing clover into existing swards.”

Seed choice

There are a range of clover varieties that can be blended to take advantage of the merits of each. White clovers are generally categorised as small, medium or large leaved types.

The smaller leaved varieties are slower to establish and lower yielding but are the most long lasting and persistent under tight grazing. Larger leaved clovers are the fastest to establish and highest yielding but are less persistent.

Pelleted-Cloverplus“Blends formulated for dairy systems tend to take advantage of the higher yielding medium and large leaved clovers,” he says. “We include 90% medium and large leaved clovers in our pelleted CloverPlus blend and only about 10% of small leaved clover to help increase ground cover and persistency. It also includes the new large leaved New Zealand variety Kakariki which gives exceptional yields.”

Overall, well-managed clovers in the sward will last for the persistency of the mixture. “White clover is very persistent and if correctly managed would last longer than many mixtures,” adds Mr Spence.

“Red clover will last three to four years and so is usually paired with grass species that last the same amount of time. For example, a grass and red clover mixture would tend to include high a proportion of hybrid ryegrass.”

Even at lower fertiliser prices, Mr Spence believes the increase in demand for clover will continue. “Persistency in drier conditions, nitrogen-fixing properties and soil health benefits as well as feed value are high on the radar for dairy farmers going forward,” he says.

Environmental schemes such as SFI are also encouraging the use of clovers, either as part of a legume rich sward, or as a tool for managing grassland with low nutrient input.

“There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes among seed breeders too, to boost the yield and persistency of clovers, and there are new improved varieties out every year.

“I’d encourage livestock farmers to give it a go, or to introduce more clover if it’s an option, and if the guidelines are followed for ensuring good establishment, the crop will bring many benefits to animal production and to the sustainability of the system.”

Find out more

To download the CloverPlus fact sheet, click here

CloverPlus Fact Sheet



Start your grass planning now!
Start your grass planning now!

Autumn can be an excellent sowing period to establish a new reseed, especially if your existing paddocks look like they are running out of steam!

A few simple steps before sowing can make a huge difference:

1. A pH of 6.0 to 6.5 (for clover leys) is ideal

2. Prepare a firm fine seedbed 5-8 cm deep

3. Ring roll to ensure moisture retention and an even drill depth

4. Drill with a harrow/seeder no deeper than 6mm

5. Rolling after makes a big difference

Sinclair McGill Grass and Forage Handbook_CoverWe recommend using Sinclair Mcgill seed mixtures:

Castlehill – A long term dual purpose permanent pasture with clover

Turbo – Ideal for paddock grazing systems, fast regrowth and longer grazing periods.

Colossal silage – a shorter term mixture to produce quality silage yields.

Click here to find your local Sinclair McGill distributor!


Back your grassland
Grassland improvement is always a wise investment and despite some hikes in input prices there’s still no question on the payback from a reseed or repair.

Early summer is a key time in the grassland calendar. It’s when ‘big’ decisions are made – like timing of silage cuts to achieve the best quality or to maximise yield to fill the clamp.

“But it’s also time to assess sward and grass quality and make some decisions,” says Limagrain UK’s forage crops product manager John Spence.

So once first cut is completed, a visual assessment of the swards, together with yield and initial quality details, will give a good indication of whether silage targets have been met.

Fertiliser ‘fix’

If yields are down and the silage clamps are low after first cut then sward growth should be maximised in the short term.

“It might be a hard pill to swallow this year, but even with high input prices, the additional grass yield gained from fertilizer applications is worthwhile and more cost-effective than making up the shortfall in dietary energy with bought-in feed,” says Mr Spence.

Whilst reducing fertiliser applications might seem like an attractive idea, a 25% cut in nitrogen from an annual rate of 250kg/ha to around 185kg/ha is likely to reduce grass yields by around 2t/ha equivalent to a reduction in energy of around 22,000MJ/ha. This might save around £80/ha in fertiliser costs but the loss in energy from grass will cost around £600 to replace from energy in bought-in concentrates.

“And remember, concentrate feed prices are still high, so most farmers will see maximising milk from high quality forage as even more important this year.”

Oversowing the sward with a grass seed mixture – or clover – is another short to medium term grass improvement option, and soon after first cut is a good time to do this on any swards needing some ‘repair’.

“Have a walk around the sward a few days after cutting it,” adds Mr Spence. “Look for gaps and broadleaved weeds. But also look at the grasses. There’s no need to worry about identifying the individual grass weeds but look for the proportion of ryegrass in a sward.”

Ideally, 70% of the grass plants should be ryegrass. If there’s less, productivity begins to be significantly compromised. “Examine a metre square area and work out the ryegrass population,” he adds. “If there’s between 70% and 80% perennial ryegrass content then overseeding – rather than a full reseed – can renovate a ley and extend its productive life.”

Correct mixture choice for overseeding is important as the newly sown grasses need to compete with the existing sward. A high inclusion of Tetraploid grasses is recommended as they tend to be larger seeded and more competitive with the established plants.

“Overseeding is also a great way of introducing or increasing the clover content in the sward,” he adds. “Sowing clover in May and June, when soil temperatures have warmed up, means the clover should establish quickly and be able to better compete with surrounding grasses. A pelleted clover, with a mix of clover leaf sizes, gives best results.”

Grass ‘shelf-life’

Grass leys are at their most productive in their first year – so a sward sown in 2023, should be at its most productive in 2024. “Fall off is gradual but inevitable. By year five, a ley’s productivity could be just 60% of year two and the dry matter yield from a grass sward can decrease by about five tonnes/ha from year 1 to year 4.

Ideally, 20% of grassland should be reseeded each year. This keeps grassland on a five year rota and offers the opportunity to maximise sward productivity. Reseeding-Grass

Even with higher fertiliser and fuel prices, Mr Spence says that the cost of a reseed is easily justified and will pay for itself in improved output from the sward in little over a year.

“It costs between £550 a hectare and £850 a hectare to reseed, depending on whether it’s an overseed or a full reseed,” he says. “But the dry matter output and forage quality should be significantly improved. The new ley should produce more than 33,000MJ per hectare of energy, which is enough to produce 6300 litres of milk. At 40p a litre, this is more than £2500 in milk value. So there’s no issue over justifying the cost.”

He points out the value of choosing a high quality tried-and-tested grass seed mixture suited to the farm and the sward’s purpose makes economic sense.

“It costs the same to sow an average grass seed mixture and a high quality proven mixture. Between 25% and 30% of the reseed cost will be spent on seed, if you opt for a high quality mixture, or around 20% for a standard mixture” he says.

“So there’s a marginal difference in price but on farm trials with new varieties and mixtures show a big difference in yield and feed value which farmers can take advantage of.”

Reseed timing

Reseeding in spring tends to be less popular than in autumn, primarily because it means taking a field out of production during peak grass growing time, despite warmer conditions favouring good establishment and less chance of competition from weeds.

“Less availability of pesticides has altered reseeding decisions. We can’t rely on their use in reseeds, so instead we’re looking more to a rotation to break the bug cycle to help ensure a successful reseed.”

One option may be a quick growing brassica such as Skyfall, sown in May after first cut silage and giving several high protein rounds of grazing, starting as early as late July when the grass growth has slowed down. “We call this crop a bounce-back brassica as it can be grazed, closed up and after an eight-week regrowth, re-grazed ahead of an autumn reseed.”

For those looking for a second cut or grazing round prior to a reseed, a kale or brassica hybrid or stubble turnips sown in July or August will provide a grazing crop in autumn and winter ahead of a spring reseed.

“There are lots of options when it comes to maximising output from grassland, and cutting costs in this area is false economy. There are many other areas to look at before making cuts here.

“And bear in mind that reseeding, oversowing and fertiliser use go together. Younger, healthier grasses will make better use of fertiliser applications than older swards, which means that more fertiliser is turned into grass and feed value in a healthy fresh grass sward.”

Find out more

To see the full range of Sinclair McGill mixtures and find your nearest distributor, click here

To download the Sinclair McGill Grass and Forage Handbook, click here

Sinclair McGill Grass and Forage Handbook_Cover

To find out more about LG Skyfall Bounce Back Brassica, and download a free Growers’ Guide.

Skyfall bounce back brassica brochure front cover

Choosing grass seed mixtures
Reseeding – or at least overseeding – every five years is essential for dairy farmers taking grassland productivity seriously.

This costs between £550 a hectare and £850 a hectare, according to Limagrain UK’s forage crop manager John Spence.

“Of this, between 25% and 30% will be spent on seed, if you opt for a high quality mixture, or around 20% for a standard mixture” he says, adding that cutting corners here amounts to a false economy.

“There’s a big difference between a good and a standard seed mixture, in yield and feed value,” he adds, “yet it costs the same to carry out the work and only a small difference in seed costs.

“And there’s a great deal of knowledge and skill that goes into designing our best seed mixtures, and into the testing and trial work before they even hit the shelves. Farmers would be foolish to dismiss this.”

The UK’s Recommended Lists are compiled annually by a panel of industry specialists. There’s a constant influx of new varieties pitching for a place on this list.

Be discerning when choosing seed mixtures

“The selection process is pretty robust though,” adds Mr Spence. “A newcomer has to show a clear improvement on existing varieties, based on extensive trials, before being accepted, such as yield, metabolizable energy, D value and ground cover.”

John Spence_Forage Manager_Oct21 (1)There are also secondary characteristics that are considered, more specific to the type of grass, such as disease resistance, and seasonal yield, and winter hardiness.

Much of the forage quality trial data used by the selection panel is based on results in the early growing season; something Limagrain is keen to complement with its own data from trials that run throughout the whole growing season.

“The more data we have, the better we can understand a variety’s strengths, so we use the recommended list trial data alongside our own before selecting varieties for our mixtures,” he adds. “We compare varieties on their seasonal performance and also their year on year results, so we take their lifetime performance into account.

“This additional data highlights the ‘staying power’ of the variety right across the season, so it’s important information for growers, and for us as we select varieties for our mixtures.”

Pick and mix

The second, and equally important stage, in selecting the right grass seed is choosing a mixture of varieties that work well together. Designing these mixtures lies with the individual grass seed companies and the mixture’s success is dependent on their skill and expertise.

Limagrain UK Grass Trials (1)These mixtures should build on the characteristics of individual varieties, particularly when it comes to yield. “But the varieties should also complement each other, and this will be particularly evident in feed value. This is an increasingly important component of home-grown forages in the light of record highs for bought-in feed prices,” says Mr Spence.

“It’s important to use the right ingredients – or varieties – for each mixture, depending on its purpose. For example, the varieties used in a cutting mixture should prioritise yield while maintaining high feed value at silage time, whereas varieties for grazing need to perform throughout the season, with dual-purpose mixtures s carefully balancing the two key parameters.”

Put to the test

Limagrain compares its own mixtures and other commercially marketed mixtures in field trials. It’s been running since 2013, when it introduced a yield and feed value stamp of approval to the best; those achieving high performance in both areas.

“We’re the only company in the UK to have a bank of data on the performance of grass seed mixtures that is updated annually. It’s enables merchants and farmers to check out the latest ranges”.

The feed value of grass mixtures is measured using near infra-red – NIRS – spectroscopy. “We have a benchmark for energy, sugar, protein and digestibility components. Mixtures achieving or surpassing these, and meeting our benchmarks for yield, carry the LGAN accreditation.”

Popular mixtures for dairy farmers that carry the LGAN accreditation in the company’s Sinclair McGill range include Colossal Silage – a short term ley for cutting, dual-purpose Prosper and one of the best grazing mixtures available, Turbo.

“Take Turbo, this has five perennial ryegrasses in its mix – two intermediate and three late varieties. Within these are three tetraploids and two diploids. It also includes the grazing Festulolium Matrix and a white clover blend.

“So we have species that can withstand drier conditions, have exceptional yield characteristics, can fix nitrogen and provide growth through the season. And the Matrix grows at cooler temperatures so gives ‘shoulders’ to the crop in spring and autumn. And collectively this mix meets the LGAN combined feed value and yield benchmarks.”

Trial results show the value of improved grass seed mixtures. For example, the relative dry matter four-year mean yield for Turbo was 4% above the control, and the four-year mean sugar (WSC) content to digestible fibre (dNDF) placed Turbo ahead of the other mixtures on the trial, as shown in Figure 1.

Fig. 1 Four year sugar (WSC) (%) vs dNDF (%)

Limagrain grass mixture trials - Four year sugar (WSC) (%) vs dNDF (%)

Figure 2 shows the added value of high feed value seed mixtures in milk income. “An extra 1% in digestible fibre from forage can add 0.25kg of milk a day, and based on the performance of Turbo across four years, this gave an additional £81 per cow per year based on 300 milking days.

“The benefit is even higher when we consider savings from bought in feeds and a higher milk price.”

Fig 2. Turbo vs Long term dual-purpose ley performance 2017-2022

Limagrain UK grass Trials - Sinclair McGill Turbo vs Long term dual-purpose ley –performance 2017-2022








Quality control

No ‘full package’ seed mixture would be complete without quality checks. If you buy a premier seed mixture you expect high quality clean seed,” adds Mr Spence. “There are legal standards for germination and purity and there are higher voluntary standards.”

The standard level for germination is 80% and 96% of the seed must be pure. The higher voluntary level for purity is 98%. Limagrain adds another 10% to this germination level and tests seed every six months to make sure standards are maintained.

A top quality grass seed mixture could cost £230 a hectare, for example, compared with a standard of the shelf mixture at £175 a hectare, at a standard sowing rate of 35kg of seed per hectare for a reseed.

If there’s a difference of 10% in germination and 2% in purity, this brings the cost per viable seed to a similar cost. But the higher quality mixture will have the yield and feed value assurances too.

“So farmers can afford to be discerning and spend their money on a mixture with a pedigree – a background of reliable recommended varieties, with supporting trial data compiled into a mixture that is proven to do the job they want it for.”

Top Tips


Find out more

To see the full range of Sinclair McGill mixtures and find your nearest distributor, click here

To download the Sinclair McGill Grass and Forage Handbook, click here

Sinclair McGill Grass and Forage Handbook_Cover

Weighing up grass mixtures
Are multispecies seed mixtures a silver bullet or are there other options to consider when reseeding grassland?

Multispecies grass mixtures have grown in popularity in recent years, with sales at least doubling year on year since 2019. And for good reason, says Limagrain UK’s forage crops manager John Spence. But he suggests growers weigh up the pros and cons, look at alternatives, and decide what’s right for their own situation.

“Multispecies mixtures tick a lot of boxes, offering numerous benefits, but when reseeding, growers shouldn’t be quick to discount a good ryegrass and clover mixture. These can bring many of the same benefits, along with other advantages that might suit some situations better.’

He says that in many cases, multispecies are compared with a ryegrass-only swards, and the benefits of drought resistance, lower inputs and more continuous summer growth shine through in mixtures with a wider range of varieties and herb species.

“But if you add clover to the ryegrass mix, you bring some of the benefits of a multispecies mixture such as a reduced fertilizer need and more continuous growth through summer. Plus a few more advantages, such as flexibility of use and longevity, that might appeal to some.

“For example, ryegrass and clover mixtures are better for dual purpose use. They can be cut for silage earlier in the season, then closed up and grazed,” he says, adding that while it’s not impossible to use a multispecies mixture for cutting, they tend to be more difficult to manage.

“If multispecies swards are destined for cutting, they’re best treated as a multicut crop so the chicory doesn’t get too woody and undigestible.”

Likewise, there’s little margin for error in the grazing management of multispecies swards if their feed value is to be realised.

“Grazing multispecies swards too tightly will reduce the persistence of the herbs, but if it’s left to grow too long, herbs such as chicory will become woody. It’s not quite as straight-forward as a ryegrass and clover sward.”

But the inclusion of herbs such as the deep-rooted chicory and plantain in multispecies swards do add drought-tolerance benefits and contribute to soil health and structure. “These can be very valuable in areas with light soils, and where drought conditions are common.

“But in less extreme areas, tetraploid perennial ryegrass can be added to a grass and clover mixture. These are deeper rooted than diploid varieties and can withstand dry conditions better, and tend to be higher yielding and more digestible.

Likewise, he points out that all grass swards benefit soil health and structure and are an ideal addition to a cropping rotation. Remember too that including clover in a ryegrass mixture brings nitrogen-fixing benefits and offers a more consistent growth pattern through summer.”

And if extending the grazing season is a priority, both grass/clover and multispecies mixtures can be formulated to include species such as Timothy and Festulolium which start growing at lower temperatures than ryegrasses. “This adds ‘shoulders’ in spring and autumn and extends the grazing season,” he says.

Herb longevity

Some herb species claim anthelmintic properties to mitigate the worm burden in livestock whilst also adding feed value, in addition to their deep roots that enhance soil structure and grow in drier conditions.

Which species to include in a multispecies mixture is something Mr Spence says growers should also consider carefully. “The mixtures can get very complicated, and can include 15 to 20 different components, some of which will be more difficult to establish.”

Typically herb species such as plantain and chicory establish well across a wide range of soil types and work well in combination with productive grass species such as ryegrasses, Festulolium and Timothy. Other herb species such as sainfoin and sheeps parsley are much more difficult to establish successfully.

“Grass chicory and plantain, with red and white clover, are the simplest and maybe most reliable multispecies mixtures. If more complex mixtures are being considered, and these are generally more expensive, growers should get local advice on their suitability to the area and its soils, and the track record of establishment of the various varieties. Otherwise you might be paying for something you never see.”

The persistency of the herbal varieties will also affect sward longevity. “The herbs tend to die out quicker than the grasses and clover,” adds Mr Spence. “If we get four years from a multispecies sward we’re doing well. By then most herbs will have been ‘pushed’ out by the more competitive grass varieties with just the ryegrass and clover surviving.”

A ryegrass and white clover sward reseed should last for five years. “There’s a significant difference here with a multispecies sward, so this needs to be considered when costing a reseed.”

The environmental aspects of multispecies swards and its ability to attract a diverse range of wildlife has attracted some growers to these options. “And a main driver has been the countryside stewardship payments for crops grown in England meeting certain criteria. If the mixture complies with the rules and the crop meets the growing requirements it can attract £382 a hectare.

“It’s all about managing risk and balancing the conditions on the farm with the requirements from the crop, and working out which mixture will be the best match.”

Multispecies or a glass clover mixture – Considerations

• Soil type, weather conditions/drought risk
• Grazing only or cutting/grazing requirements
• Grazing management resource
• Input requirements/availability of slurry
• Productivity and persistency through the season
• Sward longevity
• Eligibility for and attractiveness of conservation /environmental schemes

Prosper grass mixture adds value to grazing sward
Sinclair McGill’s medium term grass seed mixture, Prosper, is showing its colours as a high yielding and high value grass seed mixture.

In Limagrain field trials, carried out from 2017 to 2020 at its UK Innovation site Prosper led the field for key yield and quality attributes when compared with other Sinclair McGill mixtures and two premium controls. This mixture has continued its success in 2020 and 2021 field trials, despite challenging growing conditions. 

Top yield

Prosper had excellent performance when cut for silage with yields exceeding any other perennial ryegrass based mixture. Its dry matter yield was even higher yielding than the control short term mixture composed of Italian and Hybrid ryegrasses. A short term mixture is normally expected to surpass a medium term mixture in dry matter yield.

Four-year Mean Relative DM Yield (t/ha)





This mixture also had the highest sugar content (WSC %) among the mixtures on trial and a digestible fibre (dNDF) 2% above the long term mixture control. Prosper’s four year average mean metabolisable energy (ME) was the best in the group.

Top dry matter

In a grazing management situation, Prosper’s relative dry matter yield across the four years was significantly above the controls when cut under a simulated grazing regime. It also produced some of the best sugar, energy and digestible fibre results, similar to that of Sinclair McGill’s high quality grazing mixture Turbo.

Four-Year mean WSC (%) vs dNDF (%)

Four-Year mean WSC (%) vs dNDF (%)



Best of both

Prosper is a dual purpose mixture comprising mid and late perennial ryegrasses and tetraploid ryegrass varieties. The mixture also includes white clover and, for Scotland and Northern Ireland, a small amount of Timothy. This combination of varieties at carefully formulated ratios makes the mixture ideal for grazing cattle and for conservation.

High yields and high feed value, particularly dNDF, combine to put Prosper ahead as a top dual purpose cutting and grazing mixture.

LGAN quality accreditation

Prosper carries Limagrain’s LGAN (LG Animal Nutrition) accreditation. This rubber-stamp confirms its yield and feed value. It reflects the merits of the individual varieties included in the mixture and their abilities to complement each other within the mixture.

LGAN brand logoThe LGAN stamp is ‘proof’ that the mixture has met both agronomic and feed value benchmarks and that, through extensive trials, it has a track record for efficient production.

The ability to improve digestible fibre (dNDF) has been a key factor in selecting LGAN varieties and mixtures. Fibre is needed in the diet to maintain a healthy rumen, so increasing dietary dNDF improves feed efficiency.

In dairy cattle even a small increase in dNDF has been linked to improvements in both intakes and milk production. Similar performance advantages can be expected in increased intakes and liveweight gain in beef cattle.

LGAN PROSPER, dual purpose (Sinclair Mcgill)

Reseed – with quality

Grass swards are at their most productive in their first year. Dry matter yield and energy content of the grass will then decline year-on-year.

Limagrain’s latest grass trial results have confirmed this and have demonstrated the yield benefits of the younger sward, and of high quality grass seed mixtures verses a control.

These latest trial results, that show an average decrease in yield of nearly five tonnes per hectare – around 40% – from year one to year four reinforce the value, and cost-justification, of reseeding as part of good farm management.

Adding further value to the reseed is achieved by using high quality, top-performing mixtures that are identified in the trial.

More information

Find your nearest Sinclair McGill distributor here

To learn more about Sinclair McGill Prosper mixture, click here

Download the Sinclair McGill Grass and Forage Handbook for more information on reseeding and choosing the right mixture for your farm

Sinclair McGill Grass and Forage Handbook_Cover

How valuable is your grass?

The well-known value of reseeding grass swards to support livestock production is shown in Limagrain UK’s latest trial results.

Grass swards are at their most productive in their first year. Dry matter yield and energy content of the grass will then decline year-on-year. Good grassland management and the use of quality grass seed mixtures will promote output but, yields from a young sward will always out-perform older swards.

Limagrain’s latest grass trial results have demonstrated the yield benefits of the younger sward, and the benefit of high quality grass seed mixtures versus a control.

The trials conducted over four consecutive years, from 2017 to 2020, showed an average decrease in yield of nearly five tonnes per hectare – around 40% – from year one to year four.

While some mixtures showed greater performance than others – all had a significant decrease in yield over time. This, according to the company’s forage crop manager John Spence, is typical even in a well-managed sward.

“Some growers will see much greater yield reductions,” he says. “Management and grass seed mixture will affect forage production over time.”

These latest trial results reinforce the value, and cost-justification, of reseeding as part of good farm management.

“This loss of nearly five tonnes of dry matter yield per hectare in four years would provide the energy for £3,280 worth of milk based on a milk price of 30p per litre. “Reseeding is estimated to cost between £430 and £700 per hectare, so there’s a clear return on investment here.”

Value-added swards

Limagrain’s trial results also showed that using proven grass seed mixtures can provide added yield and feed value.

“Take one of our trial mixtures Monarch Silage & Grazing,” says Mr Spence. “This medium-term mixture yielded 8% above the control under conservation management and was 12% higher yielding under grazing management.

“The mixture also added feed value with improved digestible fibre of 2.5% under grazing management and 4% in conservation systems, compared with the control.

“If we consider that a 1% improvement in this digestible fibre – dNDF – can increase milk yields by 0.25kg per cow per day, a 4% increase is worth an extra litre of milk per cow.

Based on a milk price of 30ppl, this is an extra £300 of milk income a day for 100 cows.”

A mixture with credentials

Monarch grass mixtures bagMonarch Silage and Grazing mixture is LGAN accredited that identifies it as having a proven ability to deliver superior nutritional value, while maintaining excellent agronomic qualities and yield. Limagrain mixtures with LAGAN accreditation are all supported with independent trial data that demonstrate their added feed value.

Monarch Silage & Grazing includes medium and late tetraploid and diploid ryegrasses and white clover. All the seed is tested to ensure quality standards are met and it is treated with Headstart® Gold to ensure rapid and reliable germination.

“The latest trial data, and the return on investment of adding value through a reseed and by using high quality mixtures makes for good reading and supports the role of these practices in successful management,” adds Mr Spence

Grass ‘companion’ can make maize more ‘friendly’

Maize undersown with grass could solve the forage crop’s environmental issues, particularly with regard to run off and soil nutrient losses, while maintaining, if not boosting, feed output. But what underpins the viability of this approach on UK dairy units?

Growing a crop like maize and leaving the field fallow for at least six months is like having an empty factory for half a year. And that’s before considering the environmental impact, from soil run off and the loss of nutrients from the soil, when maize fields are left fallow.

“So combining maize with another crop, like grass, to increase its output, while helping to retain soil and nutrients, aid drainage and improve soil structure makes good sense,” says Limagrain’s forage crop manager John Spence.

“But we have to be careful that maize yields are not compromised by the grass. And additional cultivations and passes across the field must be efficient and cost-effective.”

There are some possible options that can support maize crops while increasing land productivity and avoiding environmental issues.

Three include: drilling maize and grass at the same time, with the grass spaced in rows that are at least 15cm away from the maize; drilling grass into the maize crop once the maize has reached the six-leaf stage, after about six weeks; or follow maize with a forage rye, grass reseed or a winter cereal crop.

The first, drilling maize and grass at the same time, is preferable, according to South Staffs Water (SSW) senior catchment adviser Nina Yiannoukos-Benton. “Because this minimises the number of passes and helps to protect soil structure and nutrient retention.

Nina Yiannoukos Benton, senior catchmnet adviser South Staffs Water“Some producers may be concerned that the grass could compete and compromise maize yield, but in the trials we’ve carried out on commercial dairy units, they’ve actually seen increased crop performance.

“The grass ‘stays in its lane’, so to speak, only spreading once the maize has been harvested and providing a good cover crop for winter.”

Mr Spence says it’s key, if this is the chosen option, to select early maturing maize varieties and slow growing (low yielding) grass seed mixtures to avoid grass competing with the maize in the early growth stage.

Limagrain has been working with SSW on developing a mixture that creates a ‘carpet’ effect, but is also palatable.

And maize varieties with good early vigour that are typically harvested by late September/early October, gives grass the chance to grow, take up nutrients, and develop a good root system to ‘bind’ the soil.

Mrs Yiannoukos-Benton prefers undersowing the grass at the same time as the maize. “Because multiple passes can create soil compaction issues.
But, drilling once the maize is established is an option if producers are concerned about maize yields, and it also enables higher yielding grass varieties to be grown, if that’s their preference.”

This option relies on good sowing conditions for grass. And again, early maturing maize varieties are ideal so there’s still enough warmth and light for some grass growth once the maize is harvested, ensuring the ‘companion’ crop can play its environmental role and provide a green cover.

Success really depends on the grass mixture drilled alongside the maize.

“It can’t compete with, or comprise, the maize crop. And it also needs to be a valuable feed in its own right – offering some late-season grazing for dry cows and young stock, or even milkers,” adds Mr Spence.

So grass mixture choice is crucial. “It has to quickly establish and grow in the dry environment caused by the maize crop. But it’s a fine line – too fast and it will compete with the maize crop, resulting in yield loss.”

For sowing at the same time as maize he recommends a high proportion of amenity-type tall fescues in the grass mixture, to provide some drought tolerance and the ability to survive well when sown at the same time as the maize.

For sowing at the six leaf stage he suggests a proportion of tall fescue type festuloliums (a cross between tall fescue and Italian Ryegrass) and Matrix (a meadow fescue type festulolium).

“But make sure seed rates are not too high. Good agronomy advice and careful drilling – with the correct equipment – is key.”

Grant schemes
There are environmental schemes to encourage producers to consider a second crop to reduce pollution from maize land.

Countryside Stewardship SW5 is an option, with payments of £133/hectare for mid and higher tiers. Applicants must satisfy criteria that stipulate harvesting maize by October 1 and establishing a quick-growing cover crop, by October 15, which will provide a dense cover and protect the land from soil erosion.

SSW has a grant scheme for producers in its high-risk catchment areas and offers £150/hectare towards the cost of growing maize that’s undersown with grass.

The grants are available under its SPRING environmental protection scheme, set up to help producers reduce soil run off and pollution.

One Staffordshire-based dairying couple has been trialling maize undersown with grass for the past two years and are about to start their third year in the scheme.

Becky and Trevor Mycock grow 90 hectares of maize to feed their 400-cow herd and 48 hectares of it was undersown with a grass mixture in 2020.

“Local contractor Rob Moore used an adapted drill – a prototype that’s been developed in conjunction with SSW – that sows both crops at once. This removes the need for additional cultivations, which reduces the risk of compaction and other soil structure and fertility issues,” says Mrs Mycock.

The couple grew 60 hectares of maize in 2019, the first year they took part in the SSW trials, and a third of it was undersown with grass, using a Pottinger maize drill that is owned by another local contractor.

“Our biggest concern was whether the grass would reduce maize yield. But our big gamble paid off. We actually saw more maize freshweight yield per hectare from the undersown fields,” she adds.

“And forage quality was unaffected. We were also able to graze some dry cows and young stock on the maize ‘aftermath’ and the grass also provided a good cover crop during the winter between maize crops.”

The Mycocks grow a mixture of early and later maturing maize varieties. “Both have done well. And we’re also looking at trialling a different grass mixture this year – one developed in conjunction with Limagrain – that should improve the palatability of the sward.”

During the past two years they have seen good establishment of both the maize and the grass, even though the seasons have been wetter than usual. “We have also seen some excellent maize yield results.”

Mrs Mycock adds that, typically, the maize freshweight yield is five tonnes per hectare higher for the undersown crops – averaging 42t/hectare compared to 37t/hectare for straight maize. “Our experience certainly allayed any concerns that the grass could compromise maize growth and development,” she says.

Maize has a reputation for being environmentally damaging. “But we recognise that it is an essential part of many producers’ dairy production system,” says Mrs Yiannoukos-Benton.Maize undersown with grass

“So we looked at a way to undersow the maize with grass to offer green cover during the winter. This is when land is at high risk from nutrient and sediment losses to watercourses and, with this dual-sowing approach, we have reduced losses dramatically.”

Other producer who are also involved in trials reported that harvesting the maize crop is also easier and ‘cleaner’. “The grass acts like a carpet, keeping mud to a minimum and allowing access to what may otherwise be inaccessible fields,” adds Mrs Mycock. “I can honestly say that without the undersown grass we may not have been able to harvest a lot of our maize in 2019, because it was just too wet.”

“If that’s not an incentive to give it a go, particularly after the exceptionally wet autumns of 2019 and 2020, I don’t know what is.”

Say ‘hello’ to white clover

August is the perfect time to introduce clover back into the sward to reap the benefits that this excellent forage species provides

Too many grazing mixtures are lacking white clover, either because it was never in the mixture, or because it has been killed out when using herbicides to control other broad-leaved weeds.

A bundle of benefits

But producers are missing a trick. This forage species brings a bundle of benefits.
Alongside increased yields, white clover improves forage quality and, on the back of this, milk yields and solids.

Irish research has shown that incorporating clover increased milk yield by 13.3% and milk solids by 13.4%. Also, dry matter production was 16.8% greater on grass-clover swards, compared with grass-only swards.

And with sustainability being an increasingly important factor, this legume fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere and reduces the crop’s reliance on inorganic fertilisers.

A sward with a ground cover of between 20% and 30% clover species can fix 180kg of nitrogen per hectare, equivalent to 522kg of ammonium nitrate fertiliser. At today’s fertiliser prices that’s worth around £120 per hectare.

White clover’s growth pattern is complementary to grass and a grass-clover mix provides a more consistent crop through the summer, compared with only grass species. The varying root depths means that a grass/white clover ley will be more drought-resilient than one with grass only species.

Adding white clover

White clover is best sown in warm, wet conditions and ideally not when grass is growing rapidly. So late summer and after a silage cut or grazing is ideal.

Natural clover seed is very small and light, so a pelleted seed, such as CloverPlus, will promote successful establishment through better soil to seed contact or a more even coverage if broadcasting.

A pellet increases the weight and size of the seed, making equipment calibration easier and giving a more consistent spread pattern if broadcast. The additional pellet weight ensures that more seed gets through the sward to give maximum soil-to-seed contact.

Importantly, CloverPlus is treated with the biological seed treatment Headstart Gold. This is proven to speed up germination and improve establishment.

As we approach late summer, this is a timely opportunity to add white clover to grass swards and reap the benefits on your dairy unit.

For more information, download our CLOVERPLUS pelleted white clover blend fact sheet here.