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Top tips for maximising forage for Sheep

Top tips for maxisimising forage for Sheep

Don't neglect your grassland when input prices are high

Although the high fertiliser and fuel prices are scary to think about, all is not lost when it comes to managing grassland this spring.

Home-grown forage remains the cheapest form of feed available, and we need to keep this front of mind when making decisions to see the full value of the investment. Here are my top tips for maximising your investment.

Knowing your soils

Soil fertility is key to a healthy grassland crop, and its ability to utilise nutrients applied, so understanding your soils is key.

If you haven’t already done so, soil test your grassland leys so you know what the current nutrient status is. We want to be looking at nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus levels, along with micro-nutrients and pH. For sheep, deficiencies in micro-nutrients such as magnesium and selenium can result in metabolic issues in ewes and lambs.

Don’t forget to include manure applications in your programmes – these will be invaluable this season.

Consider clover options

Many sheep farmers are looking to clover as an additional source of nitrogen for grassland. Clover inclusion can help reduce fertiliser applications, with white and red clover capable of fixing between 150 – 250 kg N/ha/year.

There is still time to stitch-in clover-rich mixes. On grazing ground, I would recommend a white clover blend of small medium and large leaf clovers which can be stitched in at 1.5 - 2kg/acre.

Red clover mixes are worth considering on silage-making ground and offer aftermath grazing for ewes and lambs. However, livestock should be introduced to red clover slowly and ewes should not be grazed on swards with moderate to high levels of red clover from six weeks on either side of tupping.

Don’t scrimp on inputs where needed 

There is a lot of talk about making savings and cutting back on fertiliser applications, but I must stress that unless managed correctly, this will impact grass quality and yield, and in turn flock performance.

Modern perennial grasses need to be fed with nitrogen, so not applying any artificial fertiliser should not be an option. This is where you need to think of the bigger picture – look at what other sources you are using and the reserves available as noted from the soil testing, and then calculate where some pull-backs may be possible.

Invest in reseeding

Despite wider cost increases, you will still see a return from reseeding. It rejuvenates less productive leys and ensures your flock has a home-grown feed in front of it for weaning, finishing, and flushing, looking ahead to next season.

I would recommend reseeding 10 to 15% each year to keep leys productive. If more than 40% of non-sown species are in the sward, this is the time to review the ley. 

There are plenty of options to consider, and the addition of Chicory and Plantain to the mixes creates multispecies leys. The key is making decisions based on what suits your system’s needs.

Example reseed mixes

  • Shield - a four-year grazer with silage potential
  • Sovereign - medium-term, intensive dual purpose.
  • Crusader - long term grazing with early bite.


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