Farmer Focus: An efficient business can’t rely on creep

As June came in, it brought the heat that we’d been waiting for all spring. This created an explosion of grass growth that was surely welcomed.

But this brought its own challenge of preventing the grass from going to seed during the heading period.

Our usual method of being in control of the situation is to graze the ewes and lambs as set stocking on all grazing fields. The target grass height is 4-6cm.

About the author

Dafydd Parry Jones
Dafydd Parry Jones and wife Glenys, Machynlleth, Powys, run a closed flock of 750 Texel and Aberfield cross ewes and 70 Hereford cross sucklers cows on 180ha. Their upland organic system uses Hereford bulls, Charollais terminal sires and red clover silage, multispecies leys and rotational grazing.
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To the eye it’s virtually nothing, but this is grass at its optimum quality. Once it starts to grow over the target height, we bring the cows and calves into the field for a few days as a form of paddock grazing to bring it back down to 4cm.

This enables the lambs to thrive on grass as good as a “concentrate” feed in its own right, and eliminates the need for creep feed. We do not believe that lambs are able to fatten on long stemmy grass.

We aim to sell a few loads of lambs in June to hopefully take advantage of the early June prices. This year I wish we had sold all our lambs in the first week of June for exceptional prices.

However, we were unable to do so, and ewes and lambs are still at home, albeit doing the essential job of managing grass growth until the end of the heading period.

As an upland farm we are not able to keep more fields for silage, owing to the undulating nature of the land. Therefore, the grazing pressure is essential to prevent the grass going to seed.

If it does, I have most certainly failed. In my experience, a field which has been unmanaged during heading period is unproductive, unpalatable, and doesn’t provide quality grass for the rest of the year.

The amount of bought-in concentrate feed needed to compensate for this would make the business inefficient. 

From the beginning of July onwards, all fields will be rested for at least two weeks to secure the longevity of the grass and especially white clover (Meillion gwyn) through the clover’s creeping stolons.