Project number: 74321
Lead contractors: Coquetdale Farmers Group
Northumberland Uplands RDPE LEADER Local Action Group (NULAG)
NULAG, EBLEX, Cotswold Seeds, Legume Plus, Cheviot Futures, Natural England
Start & end date: June 2012 – March 2014
Increased food demand, provision of public goods and the need to adapt to a changing climate all mean that upland farmers need to improve their competiveness and efficiency of the business model. Through more cost effective finishing of upland lambs, the efficiency and competitiveness of upland farms may be improved. The use of legumes for this purpose may provide a viable method to improve productivity, while enhancing biodiversity and reducing the cost of bought in feed.
- To reduce farm expenditure on bought in concentrates by maximizing on farm forage potential
- To encourage improved grassland management via feed budgeting using grassland productivity measurements and stock requirement calculations
- To educate on the use of grassland mixes to improve resilience and biodiversity
- To provide other upland farmers with information on the successful use of forage legumes using trial farms as case studies.
EBLEX and NULAG will work with five farms of the Coquetdale Farmers Group to trial the use of legume forage species and compare with current practise. Test and control fields will be direct drilled in July. Three m2 plots will be cut and weighed at 3, 6 and 9 weeks and sent off for analysis for dry matter, metabolisable energy and crude protein. Sward heights will be measured every two weeks throughout the experiment. Lambs will be split between the two fields following the cut and growth rates will be monitored for a randomised sample of the flock.
FAI will be responsible for ensuring farm data is maintained and collected. Feed budgets will be calculated to assist grassland management for optimum productivity.
Performance improvements were observed by year 2 of the experiment. Re-seeding and aeration treatments increased hay yield on all farms. Theoretical net profit, based on the post-farm price of the additional hay yield, was increased on most farms as a result of reseeding compared to the untreated control, with one farm exception.
Lamb growth rates (measured on two farms) were increased by 14% and 190% for two farms that had reseeded with a legume mix in year 2.
Further studies to monitor the trial fields and to provide a comprehensive cost:benefit analysis over the lifetime of the sward would provide additional insight in to the ongoing development of these plots and potential financial value.