Diverse legumes and grass mixtures for forage production and grazing (Organised by NEFG)

The session aimed to explore opportunities that including a wider variety of legumes and grasses can bring to dairy producers.

Tim Downes (Shropshire farmer): Chair

Session summary

Sward composition and diversity affects the productivity and stability of grassland systems. Mob grazing/rotational grazing methods can effectively manage the grassland productivity by controlling the area and timing of the grazing allowing for effective regeneration of the sward. Both the timing and intensity of grazing impacts upon both the overall productivity and nutritional value of the grassland, which directly affect stocking rates and farm profits. Functional diversity, biomass potential, residue properties, nutritional value and response to the environment must be considered when considering sward composition.

Key conclusions

The discussion that followed the presentations brought out the following points:

  • Sward diversity (legumes and grasses) directly affects the productivity and stability.
  • The height at which the sward is grazed affects its rate of regeneration.
  • Grassland management can be successfully aided by software such as ‘Agrinet’.
  • A properly managed grazing rotation is key to the success of the system.
  • Getting the right livestock breed allows for greater exploitation of the system.

Action points

  • Allow sward to grow taller (up to 2ft) prior to grazing to facilitate faster regeneration.
  • Take advantage of available software to monitor and manage grasslands.
  • Perform regular soil analysis to identify weaknesses that can be addressed through adaptation of rotation and/or sward composition and diversity.

Individual speaker presentations and abstracts

Rob Richmond (Manor Farm, Glos): Tall grass grazing (3.3mb pdf file)

Rob Richmond will discuss his use of diverse swards on a grass based dairy system. He will cover the reasons for grazing taller swards, the experience of varying sward height and rest periods over the last 10yrs, concluding with current practice at Manor Farm on Cotswold brash soils. This year has seen milk production reach 6000l/cow from 1tonne of concentrate/cow, with a stocking rate of 1.9 cows/ha. Of particular interest is the impact that these grazing practices are having on soil fertility, and how this relates to the development of a sustainable production system, having resilience to weather extremes.

Konstantinos Zaralis (ORC): Review of research on legumes and grasses for forage and grazing (2.29mb pdf file)

The characterisation of legume species conducted in the LegLINK project has generated new knowledge on the specific responses of legumes to environmental and management conditions, and the relative merits of various species for use in a range of farming systems. Mixing different legume species in the ley such as Black medic, Birdsfoot trefoil, Crimson clover, Lucerne and Sainfoin has several advantages which include increased productivity of the pasture and forage availability and suppression of weeds. In addition, widening the range of legume species increases opportunities to build short term leys into rotations on organic and conventional farms. However, little is known about how management practices such as cutting, grazing and mulching affect the productivity of such pastures, soil health and weed control. In the Sustainable Organic and Low Input Dairying project SOLID ORC are investigating how mob stocking affects pasture productivity and soil organic matter on an organic commercial farm. Konstantinos will present the preliminary findings.

Angus Gaudie (Stamfrey Farm): My new experience – measuring what cows are grazing and seeing things differently (235kb pdf file)

Angus will cover how:

  • he joined a grazing discussion group where he is the only organic farmer and how it has improved his grazing techniques, confidence and knowledge;
  • he uses the “Geomeasure” app., which measures individual paddock sizes accurately;
  • he uses the “Agrinet” software package, for his grass measuring data, to calculate and record grass growth;
  • the information produced and the support of the grazing adviser and farmer group has enabled him to improve grazing and feeding techniques, dealing with individual paddock and grass/clover sward issues to improve financial results.


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