How to: BOOST YOUR FORAGE KNOWLEDGE

Grazing academy

Following on from the success of last year’s AHDB-funded TechnoGrazing project, this year has seen the introduction of a Grazing Academy developed and run by Precision Grazing Ltd. The academy aims to demonstrate and develop the core practical skills and knowledge to enable producers to operate rotational and cell grazing systems. The first group meeting took place in May and focused on the benefits of managed grazing systems.

Forage

Research has shown that by implementing a rotational grazing system, grass utilisation can be as high as 80 per cent, compared to 50 per cent in a poorly managed grazing system. This can enable greater stocking rates, leading to increased production in liveweight per hectare (LW/ha) and subsequently greater gross margins. However, although many farmers acknowledge the benefits of managed grazing, the adoption is very limited on UK beef and sheep farms. This is often due to a perception of high labour requirements and uncertainty of how to manage the system.

Grass and forage
From Left to right: James Daniel, Director at Precision Grazing and Bill Reilly, Scientific Office (Grass & Forage)

TechnoGrazing is an intensive, cell-based, rotational grazing system developed in New Zealand by Manawatu farmer Harry Wier more than 35 years ago.  This innovative method of grazing has been adopted successfully in Australia, America and South America.  It uses specially designed, semi-permanent, electric fences to construct lanes and temporary fences to form cells.  The design provides adjustable rotation lengths while ensuring that stock movements are very time efficient.

A number of farms that trialled the TechnoGrazing system last year have increased the area under the system.  Strategically targeted grass covers and paddock recovery periods led to increased grass growth and higher quality feed, even on permanent pasture.  These benefits are supporting high stocking rates currently; 5.8-4 livestock units (LU) per hectare for cattle and 3.8 LU/ha for ewes and lambs with minimum use of nitrogen fertilizer

Together with the volatility in the price of imported protein sources and the need for improved on-farm efficiencies, sustainable and profitable pasture-based production systems such as TechnoGrazing will be key to maximising production going forward. Effective knowledge exchange from those who have successfully adopted such systems will be crucial, therefore AHDB will work with Precision Grazing Ltd to develop a ‘How to’ video which will cover what the Grazing Academy course is about.(50kg N per ha).  Existing TechnoGrazing systems have also demonstrated sustainable increases in production up to double that achieved under set stocking.  Additional benefits include improved sward composition, increased organic matter, reduced water run-off and increased labour efficiency.