With more grass than many farmers can cope with at the moment why not build up a wedge for winter feeding. Recent results from an EBLEX-funded trial in Cornwall monitored by John Vipond, of SAC, suggests major feed and labour saving are possible.

The UK is faced with the challenge of adapting to climate change. Last winter ewes got fat on winter grown grass and were reluctant to take concentrates, then when the bad weather came they were difficult to manage. Possibly this winter grass growth can be used to advantage using an all-grass wintering system based on cell grazing on a long rotation.

One was set up and monitored on Dave Sanders’ farm near Bodmin from November to March last year. Grass was set aside as a wedge prior to tupping to start the winter rotation. Following grazing, winter grass growth of 10kg/ha was measured and together these supplies maintained 950 NZ Romney ewes on 110ha. Supplementary silage of only 11kg a head, was used, thus the “all-grass wintering” objective was largely achieved. There were significant reductions in labour use and major savings in feed costs.

The findings at Mr Sanders farm found:

  • Daily shifts allowed more days a paddock
  • Sheep adjusted to shifts well, more calm
  • Ex 950 took out 45 not keeping up with mob on condition score, to go to terminal sire
  • Can set up a weeks’ fences in half a day -feed 950 ewes in 15min
  • Fields grazed in the first week have as much grass as if not grazed
  • Farm’s looking real tidy
  • Saved a lot in money and time
  • Used 19 bales silage made 800 plenty to sell now.

There are areas to be addressed, such as how other farm soils withstand the high stocking rates and how other ewe breeds cope. But the major question is whether, outside of exceptional grass growing areas like Cornwall, there is a role for this system.

EBLEX, along with Dr Vipond, will be running an event at Mr Sander’s farm on Wednesday 5 September 1-5pm to go through the trial in more detail. To book your free place ring EBLEX on 01904 771 211 or email brpevents@eblex.ahdb.org.uk.