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by Rhiadian Jones, SAC
SAC have commenced a project, sponsored by QMS to help beef and sheep farmers make better use of grass and forage. Two “Grassland Development Farms” have been established. These farms will provide the focus for the project and will host 3-4 meetings a year.
A group of interested farmers will discuss issues relating to grass and forage management on the host farm but also in relation to what they do on their own farms. Specialists from SAC will also visit each farm regularly during the grazing season to monitor what is happening in terms of stocking rates, grazing programme etc.
The two farms are in different areas of Scotland so the
project is accessible to a wider range of participants. One is in Fife, near Cupar and the other is in
Upper Nithsdale, near Sanquhar in Dumfriesshire.
Hilltarvit Mains is a 1400 acre mixed farm just South of Cupar, farmed by the Whiteford family. Around
1000 acres of arable crops are grown in addition to the 400 acres of grass. Stocking is made up of 100 autumn
calving Simmental X Angus cows producing finished cattle at 20 months and 50 spring calving cows producing store
cattle. A sheep flock of 500 Mules are put to Suffolk and Texel rams, lambing in March with replacements
bought in as gimmers. A clean grazing system has been in operation for 20 years.
Doug and Lorna Greenshields farm, South Mains, a 1600 acre
upland farm in Nithsdale. There are 600 acres of rough grazing with the remainder being permanent
pasture. Stocking comprises of 600 Blackfaced ewes along with a flock of 700 home bred Mules, which are all
put to Terminal Sire rams. There are also 190 Stabiliser suckler cows, calving in spring producing breeding
heifers and store cattle.
The first meeting at South Mains was held on 2nd July.
The project was introduced by Peter Beattie from QMS and Rhidian Jones, SAC Beef and Sheep specialist who is
co-ordinating the project and facilitating the South Mains group. Doug Greenshields
gave an outline of the farm and the enterprises. The group then moved out to see sheep grazing where Dr John
Vipond led the discussion. Finally the group spent one and a half hours discussing the rotational grazing
system that Doug has implemented this year for the first time for store cattle. This is beneficial in terms
of grass utilisation, maintaining grass quality for longer in the season and optimising cattle growth rates.
On 7th July the second meeting was held at
Hilltarvit, facilitated by Dr John Vipond, SAC Senior Sheep specialist. He introduced the project before John
Whiteford outlined the farm and the enterprises. The first stop was with the autumn calving cows and
calves. The main topic of discussion here was the benefits and methods of reseeding as the field was deemed
past its best. The group then spent some time looking at sheep grazing fields. John explained that by
keeping pastures under control in spring it maintains good grass quality. If the sward “gets away”
from the stock there will be dead material in the base which is poorer quality. Finally the group retired
back to the steading where the discussion focussed on winter feeding policy.
The following themes have been identified for the project and will receive attention in
Theme 1 – Identifying the need for reseeding Soils aspects
* Soils: classification, compactions and
* Options for aeration
* How to soil sample
* Use of information, pH guide.
* P & K indices, use of fertilisers, recommendations for grassland &
silage Grasses aspects
* Sward composition
* Weed and grass identification
* Estimating Dry Matter yields Establishment methods
* Plough, cultivate, reseed.
* Slot seeding, Aitchison drill
* Oversowing When, Where, How Costs and
* Value of reseeding and nitrogen
* Value of getting clover
* Alternatives to a full reseed
Grass varieties and mixes
Additions to grass clover mixes, plantain, chicory
* When and where to use red and white clover Management of reseeds
* Cut v graze in year 1
* Options if no sheep available
* Fertiliser maintenance
Theme 2 – Planning a grazing programme
* Planning a clean grazing rotation
* How to set initial stocking rates (at turnout).
* Supply and demand curves,
* Requirements for conservation
the feed wedge:
* Sward heights
* Using a plate meter
* Rules of thumb for getting sward height back on track
* Rotational Grazing in summer
* Nitrogen usage and stocking rate – when to
apply and how much.
* Weed control.
Theme 3 – Conservation and feeding of forage Conservation aspects
* Planning forage requirement for
cattle and sheep.
* Producing a year round grazing
plan for grass, forage crops, aftermaths, silage, bought in feed
* Setting up pastures for conservation
* Rolling, dung contamination, age of sward, target date and D
costing of dry matter costs in £/kg for first cut, second cut and
* Grass versus silage costs.
* Forage crops - costs of dry matter. Feeding aspects
* Return on feeding different classes of stock
* Wintering costs per cow and ewe.
* Outwintering options
* Deferred grazing.
Theme 4 – Clover versus nitrogen
* Red clover in arable rotations
* How much N does White Clover contribute
* Oversowing clover, what type of White Clover?
* Use of urea nitrogen on oversown clover areas
The project has got off to a great start with two interesting and well attended meetings
in excellent weather.
The next meeting at South Mains is on Thursday 10th September and another meeting will be held in the autumn at Hilltarvit once the arable work is complete. If you are interested in attending these meetings and improving your knowledge of grassland management and utilisation please contact Rhidian Jones at SAC Dumfries on 01387 261 172, mobile 0791 969 1841. Alternatively by email Rhidian.Jones@sac.co.uk