Farmer Focus: Cover crop proves good for both sheep and soil

After mentioning in my last article I felt we were not ready for the upcoming season, the delayed spring has allowed us to play catch up.

Machines are now being prepared to make sure they are ready to go when conditions allow.

We have only managed one day of field work so far, which allowed us to get double top applied to 50% of the oilseed rape, with an application of terconazole applied to the forward rapeseed.

See also: Top tips from two US no-till and cover crop veterans

I am now desperate to get a first application of nitrogen on to the hybrid barley and some mowing grass (and the rest of the autumn sown crops come to think about it).

The plan for nitrogen application splits seems to be changing all the time, but at the moment we are moving towards doing less passes with higher rates.

Cover crop trial

Lambing is now finished and calving is heading towards completion at a rapid pace.

Getting ewes and lambs out has been a slow process. The delayed grass growth and the wet conditions on the cover crops have meant managing turned out ewes and lambs has been a juggling act.

I feel the experiment of using a short-term grass ley as a cover crop has been a success. We have had several grazings; it has held the sheep up well, kept them clean and looks to have left the soil in a good condition to drill straight into.

It is tempting to leave one field in and take a cut of silage off to get a return from the investment in the seed.

The Health and Harmony report is definitely worth a read. It is particularly relevant to the generation near the start of their agricultural careers, as this will potentially shape the farming policy for our working lives.


Jack Hopkins is the assistant farm manager on a 730ha estate in north Herefordshire on predominantly silty clay loam soils. Cropping includes wheat, barley, oilseed rape, spring oats and peas, plus grassland that supports a flock of 1,000 ewes and 25 pedigree Hereford cattle.