Farmer Focus: Paddock splitting after grazing inspiration

How can the world have turned upside down in just a week?

Last Monday, I was heading to Cheltenham for my Worshipful Company of Farmers reunion meeting and we were discussing the trends away from meat eating, the venom being aimed at agriculture from a variety of outlets and how we see the way forward for livestock in general.

Just seven days, later I went grocery shopping with a list for the week and had to tear it up as there was almost no fresh meat, pasta, rice, potatoes, flour, sugar and so on.

See also: How to cut concentrate costs by rotational grazing sheep

For the first time in my life – and perhaps since the war – it was a case of buying what’s available and then working out what to do with it (not just picking what my recipes required) – a bit of a shock to the system.

Rightly or wrongly, we have ordered all our fly control, vaccines, wormers and chemicals for the spring/summer just to cover ourselves.

In-between Cheltenham and my shopping trip, James (our Harper student shepherd) and I took a trip to Edinburgh to the Farmers Weekly Graze event, held at Charlie and Andrea Walkers’s farm.

We were lucky enough to combine this with a trip to Pirntaton, Jim Logan’s farm.

We predominantly set-stock our grassland due to labour resource. When droughts hit, we know that splitting paddocks down and rotationally grazing them saves us.

Now that we have more labour, it is time to ditch our set-stocking system and hopefully say goodbye to the cycle of running out of grass, panicking, finding emergency grass or cover crops and repeating the cycle.  

I started by listening to my Nuffield buddy Michael Blanche’s podcasts (The Pasture Pod) and became convinced paddock grazing could be our saviour, along with a feed budget for the whole year.

Jim, Andrea and Charley all feature on The Pasture Pod episodes, and sparked our pilgrimage north.

We talked a lot, checked out some grass management software, drank a lot, talked some more and toured their farms – it was a fantastic trip.

Now we’re back, we’re busy splitting paddocks up for our pre-lambing rotation and getting to grips with our software packages for pasture management and feed budgeting. Watch this space.

See Rob and Jo Hodgkins’ biography