Wexford Dairy Farmer’s Approach to Reseeding using Tirlán Mastercrop


Shane Murphy, a dairy and tillage farmer based in Duncormick, County Wexford, runs a family-operated farm alongside his brother, Art, and parents, Lorcan and Marian Murphy.

Their farm, consisting of 230 cows, primarily Holstein breed, is managed with a focus on spring calving, with approximately 220 cows being milked during the summer months. The start of the 2024 grazing season presents a considerable challenge for all, not excluding Shane Murphy and his farm, due to unprecedented and unfavourable weather conditions. Despite the traditional expectation of starting grazing in January, the prolonged wet weather has confined the cattle indoors. Shane explained, ‘’Our cows have been housed since 15th October, and haven't been out yet. During a normal growing year, we’d be measuring grass and walking paddocks every week at the moment. Grass is abundant with many covers at 1800 and 2000 kg/dm/ha, but too wet to graze, unfortunately. We’re lucky, once we get to grass, that we can grow grass very well. Most years growing 12 and 13 tonnes annually. The main downside in the southeast is drought and its effects on growth rates.’’

Implementing a Structured Reseeding Programme

The Murphy family focuses on maintaining and improving their soil health through frequent soil testing, a liming program, and good reseeding practices. ‘’Overall, the soil is in good condition. We soil test every three years, with the majority of the farm at Index 3 and 4. Like every farm, we have one or two paddocks stubbornly stuck at Index 2, which is a heavy type of soil. We spread about 60 tonnes of lime every year, to ensure the soil is at optimum pH.’’ This holistic approach allows Shane to assess the condition of the grass and make informed decisions regarding reseeding, highlighting the integral role of soil testing in their farm management practices. Implementing a structured reseeding program on any farm will have lasting benefits to both the environment and a farmer's bottom line. Shane highlights that, ‘’having good grass is very important, especially in the southeast, where we’re prone to drought. New reseeds including the multispecies swards handle drought conditions better than older swards, which helps sustain milk production. Along with that silage quality, especially in a year like 2024 is very important.’’ Good quality grass ensures production is maximised right across the grazing season. The 220 milking cows averaged ‘’500kg milk solids with 6,300 litres at 4.35% butterfat and 3.43% protein’’ Shane explained.

Grass Seed Selection

The reseeding strategy on the Murphy farm is carefully planned from year to year, which Shane explains, ‘’We reseed 20 to 30 acres of grassland annually, with that, we sow 25 acres in Westerwolds Ryegrass. This is sown after a crop of barley, which we try to graze in the autumn followed by an early cut of silage. It is then ploughed and sowed in April with barley or maize. On the other ground, we use Tirlán Mastercrop Grass seed mixes, including multispecies and grazing mixtures which include Timothy and White Clover.’’ With Tirlán Mastercrop Premium you can achieve up to 40% difference in grass production when compared with older pasture. Research shows that permanent pastures are up to 25% less responsive to Nitrogen when compared to high perennial ryegrass swards according to trials at Teagasc Moorepark. As a result, these permanent pastures are costing farmers up to €300/ha per year due to reduced herbage production and reduced Nitrogen (N) use efficiency. Reseeding costs averaging around €750/ha, can be recouped within just two years due to improved profitability from enhanced milk performance and reduced feed and fertiliser costs, making reseeding among the most economically sound investments on farms.

The Road to Sustainability

Shane's approach to sustainability extends beyond reseeding. By diversifying plant species, particularly through clover and multi-species mixes, Shane anticipates a significant reduction in fertiliser usage, up to 30 to 40 units of Nitrogen per hectare. This practice not only reduces dependency on fertilisers but also improves biodiversity and promotes soil health. Clover incorporation was one of Tirlán's Sustainability Actions for 2023. Incorporating clover can increase milk production from 30 to 60 kgs per cow per year. Additionally, the Murphy family's commitment to sustainability extends to tree planting, promoting good management of hedgerows, installing solar panels in 2023, and the purchase of energy-efficient equipment like a variable rate vacuum pump.

Tirlán Support

Paddy Wickham is Shane’s Tirlán FarmLife business manager. Shane believes that the support available from the team at Tirlán is a valuable service to have access to, claiming that ‘’Paddy is nothing but helpful. If I ask Paddy for anything specific like the seed mix with Timothy and White Clover, it’s never an issue.’’

Future Plans

Even during challenging periods farmers like Shane and his family continue to look at ways to improve their business to make it more efficient. For Shane, he emphasises that ‘’the main goal is to cut Nitrogen uses and to continue reseeding. We are also looking at constructing a new cubicle shed which is a big investment but a necessary one. Along with that we also hope to continue improving cow genetics, to increase to 550 kg of milk solids.’’

First Published 8 May 2024

Tagged with: Dairy Beef Tillage


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