Farmer Focus: How does mob grazing affect nutrients?

I have read the Farmer Focus columns for many years so was proud to be asked in December if I wanted to try my hand! So here goes.

The snow cover was welcome a few weeks ago as our Mascani oats and Siskin wheat both looked quite frothy, I hoped the -6C temperatures would have hung around a while longer but the eight rams outside my kitchen window didn’t look impressed.

The last of the in-lamb ewes moved off the phacelia cover crops at the end of January, leaving the ground in great conditions this year.

See also: Tips on growing beet without neonic seed treatments

The drier back end and chalkier land has been much kinder this season, which may allow us straight in with the drill if conditions allow.

The spring bean seed germination test of 72% was a slight concern however, we will adjust seed rates to compensate.

Winter crops look well tillered and slightly forward, so no hurry with early nitrogen. We will prioritise wheat following winter oats and winter barley when soils start to warm.

Charlock in oilseed rape is eventually dying back as are my “companion crop” of volunteer spring beans in wheat.


I have completed my AHDB Farmbench figures and the new-look platform for entering data is a massive step forward.

Our local Winchester/Basingstoke feedback meeting is a really good group with some lively discussion, but it would be great to see a few more farms involved.

We have struggled to produce consistency with the low-nitrogen spring barley from our varying soil types. Confusing this even more is mob grazing 1,000 sheep across cover crops.

We took fresh weight/m sq samples and sent these off for analysis and were surprised to see over 150kg/ha nitrogen, 48kg/ha phosphorus and 153kg/ha potassium and a low carbon-to-nitrogen ratio.

How much has been used to support the sheep, how much is left and when will it become available to a following crop? We have three on-farm trials looking at this to try and tease out some data.

Preparation is being made for our community hedge planting day where we hope to encourage as many people as possible to join in and become part of their local landscape. We have 1,600 hedge plants to go at over the next couple of weeks!

Craig Livingstone is Farmers Weekly’s 2018 Arable Farmer of the Year. He manages 1,100ha in Hampshire with 215ha forestry, 85ha low-input grass ley and CSS and 800ha arable cropping. The farm supports 1,000 sheep in partnership.

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