In his address at the Ulster Grassland Society’s annual general meeting and winter conference in Belfast last week, Professor James Morrison, the incoming president, said that it was only within recent years that Ulster farmers had become aware of the “practically unlimited potential” of their grasslands.
“Yet, while very significant advances have been made we are still a long way from achieving their full potential over the country as a whole,” he said.
“It will generally be agreed that more progress has been made in the production of grass and its utilisation in the field than in the conservation of the surplus. Marked success has been achieved in productivity and output through the use of modern fertilisers.”
He pointed out that this, in turn, had demanded special attention to good grassland management and to efficiency in grazing methods. Stocking rates in Ulster were already far in excess of what was visualised a few years ago.
Professor Morrison added that the higher stocking rates had come about with the practice of grazing and cutting systems such as the “Two Sward,” as well as paddock grazing and latterly zero grazing.
“Proof is already forthcoming of the part zero grazing can play in intensive production and use of grass under our climatic conditions. There is little doubt that zero grazing can in certain circumstances lead to higher stocking rates, more effective utilisation of the grass and a greater output of milk and beef.
“Although progress in conservation of grass has been somewhat slower and despite criticisms made of the weaknesses in conservation methods, we must give due credit for what has been achieved over many years.
“We are all aware that the processes associated with conservation are more complicated than with production of grass. There have been rapid and far reaching developments in techniques and machinery in hay and silage making.
“Conservation,” he said, “is no longer considered only as an aid to good grassland management and the production of low quality winter feed.
“On the contrary, every effort is now made by farmers to grow grass to produce high quality winter feed, not only to maintain stock numbers throughout the winter but also to convert this feed into profit from milk and beef.”