Project Number:           61110045

Start and end dates:   01 July 2016 – 31 March 2017

 

The Problem:

Variable costs and increasing competition for land means that starting or expanding sheep enterprises can be challenging. Integrating sheep enterprises into arable rotations provides new opportunities for both lamb producers and arable farmers. For arable farmers, sheep may be able to achieve the same or higher net margin per hectare compared to traditional arable rotations, with the additional benefits of improved soil conditions, reduced inorganic N applications and increased yields in subsequent arable crops.

 

Aims and Objectives:

  • to investigate the practical, economic, environmental and agronomic implications of integrating sheep enterprises into arable systems
  • to research the benefits of a multi-species sward versus traditional white clover and perennial ryegrass mix
  • to understand the benefit of continuous versus rotational grazing for lamb performance and yields

 

Approach:

The site is located at South Side, Steeple Aston, Oxfordshire. The 10 ha field has been under a cropping regime previous to this project. The field will be split into three areas. A 1.5 ha field will be used as a control where a group of ewes and lambs will graze a grass and clover ley under a continuous grazing regime.

The remaining area will be divided into two areas – one drilled with white clover and perennial ryegrass and the other with multi-species sward.  The two areas will be sub-divided again into paddocks. Groups of ewes and lambs will graze these areas under a rotational grazing system. Detailed measurements will be taken to assess the impact of grass and clover ley versus the multi-species ley on soil physico-chemical properties, soil biology and crucially, liveweight (DLWG) gain in the grazing lambs both before and after weaning. Yield benefits to the subsequent arable crop may also be determined later on and from this a cost benefit analysis on introducing sheep to arable rotations may be done.