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Should Farmers Roll Grass Fields?

Grass fields are a staple of farming and have been used for years to provide pastures and feed for livestock.

Many farmers today continue to maintain their grassland as part of their annual tasks, but the question remains whether or not it is still beneficial to roll grass fields.

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of rolling versus other options available to farmers. 

Benefits Of Rolling Grass Fields

Farmer in tractor rolling a field

Rolling can help push stones back into the ground and flatten the pasture, but it also benefits the soil and roots. Rolling might alleviate soil compaction, promote better root growth, and create a smoother surface for grazing livestock.

The aeration effects of rolling can help break up compacted soil and improve water drainage, allowing nutrients to penetrate deeper into the ground.

Rolling also helps reduce puddles after heavy rainfall, making it easier to maintain a healthy field throughout all seasons.

When frost heave raises stones to the surface over the winter months, the stones can pose a risk and damage grass-cutting equipment. Running a roller over the land can help push the stones below ground level moving them away from cutting blades.

Remove Hoof Poaching

farm field with hoof poaching

Hoof poaching occurs when the hooves of livestock animals, such as cows, sheep or horses, repeatedly impact the same spot on the pasture, creating divots in the soil and damaging the grass.

When fields are used for livestock, farmers should consider rolling their grass fields to remove hoof poaching. Here are some good grassland management reasons to do so:

  1. Promote even grazing: When divots and uneven ground are due to poaching, livestock animals may avoid those areas, leading to irregular grazing patterns. Rolling the fields can help smooth out the ground and encourage more even grazing.
  2. Encourage grass growth: Rolling the fields can help stimulate new grass growth in the damaged areas. Removing the divots and creating a more even surface will give the grass a better chance to recover.
  3. Improve soil health: Compacting the soil by rolling it can improve soil health by increasing soil density, reducing air pockets, and improving soil structure.

However, some argue that rolling is unnecessary or harmful in certain conditions.

Drawbacks Of Rolling Grass Fields

Rolling grass fields is a practice that farmers have used for centuries. While it is used for more practical terms, for some, it creates nice-looking stripe fields (if you want that sort of thing).

One concern with rolling grass is that it can lead to damage if done incorrectly. Over-rolling the field will over-compact the soil, reduce aeration, and complicate drought management.

Also, too much pressure on the turf during rolling could potentially badly damage the grass roots and crowns.

Another drawback of rolling grass fields is that it can increase water runoff due to its flat surface; this can further exacerbate problems related to drought management and create issues with nutrient leaching from fertilisers applied to those areas.

To minimise these effects, farmers should take care of when and how often a grass field is rolled, if at all.

The Right Roller Equipment

Rolling fields may seem an arduous job –  some people say it’s a waste of time and money (on fuel), but it can have many benefits if done correctly and with the correct machinery.

Choosing the right roller for your farm depends on factors such as soil type and climate. Rollers come in different shapes and sizes; some rollers farmers use are cylindrical-shaped drums or spiked versions that are ideal for aerating the soil under the grass.

The method of rolling also plays an important role. If rolled too lightly, folding over the grass and levelling the ground will not achieve the desired effect. However, if rolled too aggressively, the soil can quickly become compacted, leading to poor grass growth.

Some farming forums indicate that the speed should be around 10-15mph, but farmers must consider the terrain of their land and the weather conditions. Only travel at a pace suitable for your tractor, equipment and the conditions.

Factors To Consider Before Rolling

Rutted and flooded farmers field

There is no need to roller grassland for the sake of it. Farmers must get out and inspect their fields before automatically hooking up the roller.

Look for signs that the fields need levelling. Are there molehills (aka soil acne)? or have you left tyre ruts that need sorting out?

The last thing you want to do is gather soil after the grass has been mowed and collected for silage. Soil bacteria in silage can affect the fermentation process.

The timing of when to roll the field can be important. Rolling too early in the season can cause damage due to frost heave or soil compaction from excess moisture levels.

Alternatives To Rolling

If you don’t think that field rolling is the best option for you, there are alternatives in terms of grassland management to consider:

One alternative is to “rest the field”, which means not allowing livestock to graze on it for a certain period of time by moving them to another field to graze (rotational grazing). This can give the grass the necessary time to recover and quickly regrow without being trampled by livestock.

Harrowing is another technique that can be used to help level the ground and remove hoof poaching. It involves dragging a harrow over the pasture to break up soil clumps, redistribute valuable manure, and promote new grass growth.

Topdressing involves applying a layer of compost or other organic material to the surface. This can help to improve soil structure, increase soil fertility, and encourage grass growth.

Overseeding is the process of adding new grass seed to an existing pasture. This can help improve the grass’s density and reduce weed growth without completely tillering the ground before reseeding. It’s essential to choose the right type of grass seed that quickly germinates and to overseed at the appropriate time of year for the best results.

Farm Equipment Finance

Whether you agree or not about the benefits of rolling grassland, rollers can help farmers maintain their fields.

Investing in new agri equipment can have long-term benefits, such as increased silage or crop yields and reduced maintenance costs. However, the cost of purchasing a farm roller or any other farm equipment may not always be feasible for farmers – as they don’t have those sorts of funds lying about.

At Evangate FS, we can arrange loans or leases to help farmers acquire the equipment they need while spreading the cost over time. Contact our team today for more information or a free finance quote.

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