Farmer Focus: Mixed species leys need wise selection


From mid-March to May we had solely 14mm of rain. The lately drilled wholecrop and fodder beet had been beginning to endure, and we determined to delay sowing grass, lucerne and pink clover.

Luckily, earlier than mowing first reduce, we welcomed 20mm and grass progress lifted to 80kg/day.

Weather, like milk value, is out of our management. We should adapt, set our boundaries and plan across the dangers. On the plus facet, the dry interval has made grazing easy, and inventory have beloved it.

See additionally: 7 high recommendations on establishing natural leys

About the creator

Jonathan Hughes

Livestock Farmer Focus author

Jonathan Hughes and household run a 625-head natural autumn block calving dairy herd with followers on 435ha in Leicestershire, promoting milk to Arla. Livestock are intensively grazed all year long, with all forage crops grown in-house.

Rising prices and strain for farmers to turn into “regen” have seen farms undertake combined species leys.

This has been inspired additional by the grassland soils customary of the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot highlighting funds to incorporate legumes and herbs with the grass seed mixes. 

Some may argue it’s lining the pockets of varied plant breeders, promoting costly seed which has excessive guarantees with restricted UK analysis.

I watch this house with curiosity, however I’m additionally somewhat cynical, with lots of the combined species evolving from totally different climates and grown beneath numerous administration practices. 

Establishing a grazing ley is commonly a 10-year funding, costing £500/ha or extra, together with cultivations.

If your combined species ley has poor persistence, or is dominated by one species after yr two, was that the specified consequence? 

How would this ley carry out in contrast with a typical perennial ryegrass (PRG) and white clover combine, and can it’s tough to handle?

I imagine you will need to tailor a combination to soil kind and administration, somewhat than purchase a “customary” multi-species combine with out figuring out its elements and the way they may profit your system. 

We are natural, so pink clover and lucerne swimsuit our silage leys. However, in a grazing ley, they’ve a excessive bloat threat, and the delicate crown could be trampled in moist situations.

White clover works nicely in grazing leys (we purpose for 30% cowl) offered a medium-leaf clover is used, which is much less prone to smother out the PRG. 

With the appropriate situations this may present greater than 270kg N/ha, so what else could possibly be dropped at the get together?  Plantain, possibly, on the freer draining and extra drought-prone soils. 

This might enhance the sward’s summer season nutritive worth and help with drought tolerance, however once more this may be uncovered to treading injury. 


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