Multi-species leys for sheep

The aim of this field lab is to quantify the benefit of growing and utilising multi-species grass leys for finished lamb production.

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Field Lab Timeline

    11/9/2014 12:00:00 AM
  • Open Day at Maesllwyni Farm

    View the leys at Daffyd's farm

    Open Day at Maesllwyni Farm
  • 4/2/2015 11:00:00 PM
  • Idea developed for field lab

    The feed value of a multispecies lay will change both across the year and in each year as certain plant population’s decrease and increase. This suggests that both the conserved crop and the crop grazed at any one point in the swards lifetime will be better suited to different classes of livestock at different stages in their production system. In the past three years Dafydd Jones has collected information on silage quality on his multispecies leys. He is happy to be the host for this field lab.

    Idea developed for field lab
  • 6/30/2015 11:00:00 PM
  • First meeting

    Maesllwyni Farm: Following introductions from group members of farm details and interest in maximising output from forage on their farms, Daffyd Jones explained how he had increased output from multi species leys over the past three years such that his double bearing ewes in 2015 had not received any supplementary feed during the year, with lambs finished off grass at 16 - 20 weeks of age. The group discussed how they might carry out further trails on their own farms with a number of members committing to plant part fields with multi species leys to compare with their normal grass seeds mixtures.

    First meeting
  • 7/9/2015 11:00:00 PM
  • Royal visit to Maesllwyni Farm

    Royal visit to Maesllwyni Farm
  • 8/27/2015 11:00:00 PM
  • Leys planted on host sites

    Leys planted on host sites
  • 11/30/2015 12:00:00 AM
  • Plan monitoring with researcher

    Plan monitoring with researcher
  • 3/30/2016 11:00:00 PM
  • Put leys in for early year trial

    4 or 5 host farms to put in trial plots

    Put leys in for early year trial
  • 6/8/2016 11:00:00 PM
  • Progress meeting

    At the Welsh Grassland Event, Rhug Estate

    Progress meeting
  • 7/31/2016 11:00:00 PM
  • Analyse data

    Analyse data
  • 9/29/2016 11:00:00 PM
  • Meeting to discuss results

    Meeting to discuss results
For further information hover over the above milestone marks
  • Discussion

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  • Achievements

    June 2016

    Meeting at the Royal Welsh Grassland event

    The group met at the Welsh Grassland event to discuss the leys sown so far and the farmers experiences to date.

    There was an introduction from Heather (researcher) on leys sown so far:

    All seed mixes for the project supplied by Germinal. There was a ‘core’ mix of species (including perennial ryegrasses, timothy, red clover, white clover, crimson clover and, and birdsfoot trefoil) used common to all the farmers involved in the project with each farmer choosing additional options to this core. These are:
    - Core + Chicory
    - Core + Chicory and herbs
    - Core + herbs
    (further details of these mixes to come from Heather)

    Amongst the participants there were a mix of decisions used regards to sowing date – either late summer or Autumn (typically August) and Spring sowing. The spring sowing farmers often used a cover crop to help with the establishment of the diverse ley.

    There is a mixture of organic and non-organic farmers taking part - their experiences have been detailed in following posts.

    Next steps were agreed at the end of the meeting:
    The third and final meeting is to be arranged sometime in September, with the host to be either Robert Jenkins or David Trant.
    To be carried out before that date 5 lots of forage analysis – 2 for mineral content of forage and 3 for nutritional content.
    To further appraise these multi-species leys, the group will analyse the number of grazing days that these swards support using evidence collated from the farms.

    Milestone: Progress meeting

    June 2016

    Farmers experiences to date (1)

    Triallist 1 - Beef and sheep, non-organic (previously organic), David Evans

    Seed mix used – Core + herbs, sown in August 2015

    Good establishment and good growth so far. The seed was broadcast (following ploughing and cultivation) and sown with a cover crop of forage rape at a low seed rate of 0.25 Kgs per acre.
    The soil pH was 6.2 and P index 2. The plot received one application of nitrogen this spring and has had rock phosphate applications in the past.
    The sown plot is one in a group of four plots, and David reports that his sheep prefer to graze this plot over the other three.
    The plan is to take a conservation cut this summer.
    The plantain has established and grown well and is liked by the sheep but red clover is not dominant in the sward. The plot was grazed in the autumn following establishment until December and again in the spring with ewes and lambs.

    David is interested in a forage analysis of the diverse ley, in particular the mineral content of the plantain as it is a dep rooting plant that may be bringing up minerals from deep in the soil.

    Milestone: Progress meeting

    June 2016

    Farmers experiences to date (2)

    Triallist 2 - Beef and sheep, non-organic, Robert Jenkins

    Used the core mix, sown in autumn 2015, on 5 acres with a control 5 acres of a standard Wynnstay long term ley. It was established under a cover crop of forage rape sown at a low seed rate.
    Robert reported that his sheep preferred to graze the diverse ley over the standard grass ley, but the diverse ley has a clearly less intense green colour when compared to the standard ley. The reasons for this were discussed and may be due to different chlorophyll levels present in herbs compared to the grasses or the different chlorophyll types (a or b) in different ratios. (I missed much of the detail on this?)
    The ley received a low rate of 25:5:5 at the end of April and the growth rate is so good it is unlikely to get a second dressing as will his other leys for second cut. The stock were turned off on 17th May to prepare for silage first cut.

    A forage analysis is to be carried out ready for the next meeting which may be at Robert’s farm in September.

    Milestone: Progress meeting

    June 2016

    Farmer experiences to date (3)

    Triallist 3 - Non-organic, not present at meeting, David Trant, notes presented by Heather,

    The diverse ley mix (only core) was sown into a ploughed up long term ley in the autumn when the soil was very dry. 12 acres sown in 4 separate blocks. It had 2 days grazing in autumn with 300 ewes.
    In spring three of the plots were grazed with 100 ewes and lambs and the forth plot cut for silage on 1st June with good yields reported. The intention over the season is to rotationally graze each plot with sheep for 7 day periods.
    P and K indices and pH were reported as fine.

    Triallist 4 - Organic, Rheinallt Wiggley

    The seed mix used was core plus both chicory and herbs. It was under-sown with barley and oats using a Glastir arable option with the arable crop taken for whole crop silage; peas were also used in the arable mix but had failed to germinate. Ten acres were sown on 14th May 2016 into land that had 2t acre of lime applied and was well manured with FYM. Six acres of an organic ley sown on same date. Soil pH was 6.

    Triallist 5 - Organic, Alwyn Roberts

    Sown 4 acres this spring of core + chicory for grazing and silage. The field had been previously roots and has a charlock problem. This will be controlled by topping and hard grazing this summer. Only just sown so no results to report yet.

    Triallist 6 (not present), Richard Tudor

    Sown 12 acres of a core mix plus chicory and herbs and autumn sown. This has been grazed hard so far with intended use for grazing rather than conservation.

    Triallists 7 (Richard Jones) and 8 (Edward Davies) were not present but were due to sow diverse leys soon.

    Milestone: Progress meeting

    September 2015

    Hosts plant the trial leys

    Richard Tudor planted on the 06/08, the field had previously been permanent pasture. It was burnt off with round up then shallow rotavated and the seed broad cast. This was on a steep bank and difficult to consolidate. Weather conditions went dry and the seed was slow to germinate. It was lightly grazed with some of the end of season lambs.

    Robert Jenkins planted on the 14/08 the field had previously been grass, it was ploughed and worked down and the seed was broad cast, conditions were ideal and the seed germinated well and came much quicker than the other half of the field which had been planted with a different mix. This was grazed with 250 lambs for 5 weeks, and lightly grazed again with ewe lambs.

    David Trant planted on the 05/09, this was late going in as conditions had been dry and sowing was delayed. The field had previously been grass and was burnt off with round up, ploughed and worked down. The seed was broad cast, but conditions were still dry and the germination was patchy so it has been decided to sow more seed in the spring to cover these areas. It was grazed for 4 days with 300 sheep

    Milestone: Leys planted on host sites

    June 2015

    First meeting

    The field lab was planned and the group then was formed for the trial.

    Milestone: First meeting

    April 2015

    Field lab idea

    The idea to run a field lab on multispecies leys was discussed with coordinator and researcher.

    Milestone: Idea developed for field lab

    November 2014

    Open Day at Maesllwyni Farm

    Dafydd Jones, the host, runs a 190 hectare beef and sheep farm in Mid-Wales and currently holds the title of UK Grassland Manager 2014. In the last few years Dafydd has participated in several initiatives to improve his forage production. One initiative has been re-seeding pasture using a multi-species ley.

    Milestone: Open Day at Maesllwyni Farm

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