Farmer to finish lambs on herbal leys after seeing benefits

The farm will use multi species leys and rotational grazing to boost feed efficiency and cut inputs
The farm will use multi species leys and rotational grazing to boost feed efficiency and cut inputs

The rooting depths of clovers and herbal leys will help one Welsh beef and sheep farm reduce its nutrient run-off.

Tom Jones, who farms near Colwyn Bay, is aiming to use multi species leys and rotational grazing to improve feed efficiency and reduce inputs.

A project by Welsh government-funded Farming Connect on grazing systems on other Welsh farms made him aware of the wider benefits of herbal leys.

Not only can they increase daily liveweight gains and cut fertiliser use, but they can improve soil structure and decrease nutrient run-off due to their different rooting depths.

Tom is now planning to finish lambs on herbal leys instead of ryegrass by reseeding a field currently growing a break crop of rape at Fron Farm.

He works part time on his family’s 49-hectare farm, which is stocked with 160 ewes, 30 ewe lambs and 12 Aberdeen Angus and Hereford cross cows; some stores are kept through to finishing and others sold at 15 months of age.

Feed, fertiliser and wintering costs are a challenge, so Tom is planning to make more of the grass that the farm can grow.

He said: “The intentions and aims of the exchange visits were to learn how to make better use of the grass currently grown on our farm, and to grow more grass on farm without increasing the use of nitrogen fertiliser."

Tom said this would enable the farm to increase the stocking rate and reduce the winter cost due to a longer grazing season.

In 2019, he visited two successful livestock enterprises where he gained knowledge about grazing techniques.

Armed with that knowledge, he is now confident to measure grass to build farm cover towards the winter.

The grazing season for his cattle will be extended by back fencing to build covers into winter.

Sheep will be fed baled silage from December, earlier than normal, to build covers to allow ewes to lamb outside from 15 March.

“Average farm cover in March and early April has a big effect on grass growth through the spring and summer," Tom said.

In the spring, cattle will be grazed earlier to encourage grass growth and there will be an increased use of back fencing to aid grass recovery.

The size of the areas allocated to stock for grazing will be reduced so that they are not grazed for longer than three days.