25 September 1998

Current affairs lesson

FRENCH beef and sheep producers are increasing production by using intensive grazing techniques that could allow stocking rates and profit to be doubled.

In France, many producers who are now intensifying grazing management are on small farms and poor land. But managing grazing and profiting from investment in fencing needs technical training, which farmer group InnovAction Pastorale is keen to transfer.

One producer already using temporary electric fencing for his 260-ewe sheep flock is Francois Gehin.

His 45ha (110 acre) farm in the Vosges region of north-east France is mountainous and snow destroys permanent fencing in winter. This had dictated set stocking until he discovered electric Spider Active fencing which allow him to split his grazing area into paddocks and is quick to set up and remove.

After discovering that temporary fencing was more practical than he had believed, he became aware of intensive grazing management techniques which were allowing other InnovAction Pastorale sheep producers to improve production.

In the move to intensify grazing, Mr Gehin splits his flock into groups with a maximum of 100 ewes or 100 lambs for grazing. He will use over 20 grazing paddocks and move groups frequently.

Another InnovAction sheep producer with a 600-ewe flock has had success with intensive rotational grazing, says Mr Bailey. Using Technosystems techniques and fencing small paddocks allowed him to reduce feed supplements, keeping stock on grass for most of last winter.

Technosystem grazing involves splitting the farm into strips of land that can be grazed by a small group of stock.

But its critical that strip sizes are equally sized, says Mr Bailey. To save many days of measuring farms adopting Technosystem, GPS is used to mark out strips accurately in about a day.

These strips are split into equally sized paddocks for grazing small numbers of animals for one or two days. The optimum group size for beef animals is 25-35 or 60-100 ewes to ensure animals graze quickly and efficiently and then lie down.

Cost for Technosystem grazing is about £120-£140/ha including fencing, GPS marking and training, adds Mr Bailey. &#42