Now is the time to plan which forage crops to sow for feeding to livestock this autumn and winter, says Oliver Seeds general manager Rod Bonshor.

Mr Bonshor said: “Fast growing crops such as Winfred forage rape and stubble turnips need to be in the ground by mid-August and will provide grazing eight to ten weeks after sowing.

“Slower growing species such as kale are best sown by the end of July but will give post-Christmas grazing right through to March.

“Where brassicas prove difficult to establish, sowing Raptor – a combination of ryegrass and forage rape can be a viable alternative. The grass acts as insurance against a poor take of the rape and the sugar content of the grass complements the protein content of the rape. If the weather turns wet, the inclusion of grass also keeps the animals cleaner.

“Again, this is best sown by mid-August. Or for later drilling, try a mixture of westerwolds ryegrass and crimson clover, which can be sown until mid-September.”

Grass fields

Now is also a good time to check if grass fields are performing as well as expected, or whether they need a complete autumn reseed or overseeding to renovate poor areas.

“Overseeding can be tricky but autumn is the best time as farmers are working with nature, not against it.

“It is a good idea to spray off any problem weeds with herbicide well in advance, as this will present bare ground where the weeds once grew, where new grasses can germinate.

“An added help in difficult overseeding situations is to use grass seeds that have been given a coating of fertiliser. The ProNitro seed mixture is available with or without clover, feeding the seed and not the surrounding grass. This boosts root growth and speeds grass establishment.”

Mr. Bonshor confirms growing interest in lucerne to provide a high protein and fibre forage for livestock. This species is ideal for light, dry sites due to its very deep root depth. Historically the aim has always been to sow by the end of August but changing weather patterns have allowed mid-September drillings to be very successful in recent years.


There are opportunities to support grass production through stewardship schemes. The GS4 initiative encourages herbal ley mixtures that have proved popular to date, as have fallow and nitrogen-fixing seeds mixtures.

“Multi-species leys like Landmark Spectrum have received great interest particularly in arable areas to allow rotation and soil fertility building.

“Other opportunities can come through cover crops such a N-Rich, a combination of forage rye and vetch. This crop has to be established by October 1 and retained until January 15, but this would also offer supplementary grazing after the restriction period has ended.”