We are now in mid summer, first and second cut silages have both come and gone, barley is due to come off at any moment and consequently, there will be a number of you who are (or should be) thinking of what can be done to supplement grazing until the back end and beyond.

The quality of grass silage has been pretty good so far this year and the last thing you will want to do is to open an extremely valuable clamp before it is absolutely necessary and maybe that little bit of forward planning will enable you to avoid doing just that. The two most significant crop groups that fall into this category of forward planning are catch crops and grass and it may be that if the hot weather returns and indeed persists in some areas, there will be some forage shortages that can be covered by sowing a catch crop. August and September are also the two most important months for both grass renovation and re-seeding in the west country and no doubt most of you have already had conversations with your agronomists and seed suppliers as to what needs to be done over the next few weeks. What, your seed supplier hasn't spoken to you yet? They ought to be ashamed of themselves!

Forage Rye A quick growing early turnout crop that can be sown in September and October and utilized during the following February to April - anything later meaning that the crop will become a little stemmy with much lower feed values. With yields of over 8 tonnes per acre at 25% dry matter, this could prove to be a useful option next year when clamps are starting to empty. Can be sown after barley or wheat and if following a clapped out ley, could be a useful break crop before maize. If sown in September, varieties such as Humbolt can be lightly grazed by sheep prior to Christmas with the resultant increase in tillering increasing the total yield potential.

Stubble Turnips The most popular catch crop in the UK market, but even in the south and south west, all sowings should be completed by the end of August. Very quick growing and under good conditions, grazing can commence after 12 weeks from sowing. If you are proposing to graze this crop over a period of time, would suggest that you go for two or more different varieties as this will give you more options. You should also consider the more leafier material such as Rondo if you are wanting more crude protein - Rondo is also the best winter hardy variety, with the tetraploid variety Samson offering bigger bulbs which are easier to utilize.

Forage Rape An extremely useful high protein forage crop which can be sown during August and September and can be grazed anywhere between 10 and 15 weeks later - depending on soil and weather conditions. High yielding with fresh yields ranging between 10 and 15 tonnes per acre and dry matters around 13%. Powdery mildew is perhaps the most prevalent disease for forage rape, but varieties such as Hobson and Interval would provide good levels of resistance.

If the cereal growers amongst you were asked what sort of yields you were getting as a percentage of maximum potential, my guess would be that your answers would average out at about 90%. If I put the same question to both fodder beet and forage maize growers, I wouldn't be at all surprised if that same 90% - or very near - came up again. You can sense what's coming next can't you??

Whilst it is fair to point out that not everyone grows cereals or fodder beet or forage maize, it is equally fair to suggest that those that do are achieving pretty good to very good results. But there is a crop that each and everyone of you grows, it's what your whole livelihood and profitability depends on, but the vast majority of you are seemingly content with about 75% - 80% of its true potential. That crop, as we all know, is grass, but in writing this, I've just won first prize for pointing out the bleeding obvious - why - because you all know that there's loads more that you can do with your grassland management and more profit to be had. But you don't - or won't do it! Why? I simply cannot answer that question. It's been posed at every grassland meeting I've attended and there has never been a dissenting voice. Everyone has agreed that there's still lots more they can do with their grassland, but only a small number of you are prepared to do something about it. If you really are serious about trying to improve profitability on your farms, the simple answer is start with your grassland. It really is that simple. Invite your agronomist to walk all your grassland and identify those swards with an unacceptably high weed content - anything over 50% should be ploughed down and re-seeded. When you finally re-seed that old and worn out ley, the first thing you will notice will be a vast improvement in the quality of the sward and it would surely be fair to assume that you would raise the ME by at least 1.5 - an old sward giving 10.0 with the new sward giving at least 11.5. I know that the differences will actually be bigger, but I'm being conservative. The next thing that you will see is that the yields are bigger - much bigger - at least 25% bigger, with that clapped out ley that yesterday gave you 5 tonnes of dry matter per acre is now giving you at least another 1250 kgs. Just do the sums for yourselves. That old ley that yielded 5 tonnes of DM/acre at 10.0 ME gave you 50,000 Megajoules, but the new ley that's giving at least 6.25 tonnes of DM/acre at 11.5 ME will now give you a whopping 71,875 Megajoules - an extra 21,875 which equates to an extra 4000 litres of milk and at 22p per litre means you've got £880. Deduct the cost of re-seeding and there's still £750 per acre, extra, in your pocket in the first year. This will naturally drop year on year until it's time to re-seed again, but I hope you can see that there are huge rewards out there for those people who are prepared to improve their re-seeding policy. Improve your grassland management and you will improve your profitability. No contest!!

The forage maize trials are progressing quite nicely so far and I can only assume that the warm and wet spring/early summer is having the same effect with your own commercial crops. There really are some cracking crops out there and this year, that comment seems to go for the majority. Although there were some noticeable differences in early vigour during late May, virtually everything has really romped away over the last couple of weeks with a few being waist high as opposed to the rest being "knee high on 4th of July." The J Pickard/Limagrain site in north Devon, which features a number of varieties being grown both under plastic and conventional is already throwing up a couple of extremely interesting observations. Firstly, it being obvious to all that placement of phosphate - even under plastic - is very important for early vigour and better plant colour whilst the second observation is that so far, plastic seems to be actually impeding growth - compared to the conventional sowings - with the trial drilled on June 1.

Observations only at this stage - watch this space!