Adding a grass ley to an all arable system

Joe Boy

Member
Location
Essex
Im thinking of putting grass down and grazing with cattle, it would be down for three or four years to clean up blackgrass and improve the soil structure to allow direct drilling once back in arable and to improve the soil fertility.

The grass would be a mix of ryegrass, timothy, cocksfoot and red and white clover. I would love a true herbal ley but this would be double the seed cost!

I have a graizer who will pay enough to cover the cost of the rent I have to pay and buy the above seed. I keep the BPS.

Has anyone got any experience of growing wheat after the ley has finished, am I likely to get any significant yield increases to help cover the reduced income whilst the fields are in grass. I would have thought the wheat will be black grass free for a few years so should be cheaper to grow.

It been suggested to me to ways of coming out of the ley, either in the spring, by roundup after taking a cut then dd stubble turnips that would be grazed off in August before dd winter wheat. Im slightly worried this is not enough time to reduce frit fly ect from the grass and allow the roots enough time to root so not to tie up all the nitrogen.

Another option would be to terminate the ley in the autumn and direct drill with winter beans, this delays the first winter wheat crop but I guess increases the chance of that 1st cereal being a really good crop.

Any advise about his would be greatly appreciated as its a bit of a leap of faith and I need to ensure I do not get the management wrong and muck up the following crops, all of which will be direct drilled.
 
A comment from near complete ignorance on this matter, but I was walking near some grazing cattle the other day and, compared to the few sheep out the back of my house, they certainly could not be classed as low disturbance. They were pretty sizeable Hereford cattle and they were sinking in big time into the soil. I think not much short of a plough would have been needed to remove their compaction.

Have you thought about sheep? If so, what put you off them?

I had a brief look at the cost of herbal leys a month or so ago and they are ridiculously expensive.
 

Hampton

Member
Location
Shropshire
A comment from near complete ignorance on this matter, but I was walking near some grazing cattle the other day and, compared to the few sheep out the back of my house, they certainly could not be classed as low disturbance. They were pretty sizeable Hereford cattle and they were sinking in big time into the soil. I think not much short of a plough would have been needed to remove their compaction.

Have you thought about sheep? If so, what put you off them?

I had a brief look at the cost of herbal leys a month or so ago and they are ridiculously expensive.
Ive got a field which has light gravelly soil. It had long term grass grazed with sheep for approx 10years.
I ploughed it up last April for maize and in places the plough wouldn't go in the ground. The shakerator wouldn't either. We drilled the maize, which in those patches only grew to 2-3 feet high, but when we ploughed it to drill barley this time, it ploughed beautifully. The maize had cured the compaction.
 

Joe Boy

Member
Location
Essex
Claydon (thats what you have isnt it) the wheat straight into the sprayed off ley. We sprayed it off just a day before drilling.

Yes I still have the Claydon, I did not realise that would be possible, would the drill not pull huge lumps of turf out as it went through? How long was the grass down, How did the wheat do?
 

Joe Boy

Member
Location
Essex
A comment from near complete ignorance on this matter, but I was walking near some grazing cattle the other day and, compared to the few sheep out the back of my house, they certainly could not be classed as low disturbance. They were pretty sizeable Hereford cattle and they were sinking in big time into the soil. I think not much short of a plough would have been needed to remove their compaction.

Have you thought about sheep? If so, what put you off them?

Sheep defiantly have lower ground pressure than cows but I haven't got anyone willing to graze it with sheep. The grazing will only be in the summer and the grass will be direct drilled so hopefully the firm soil will hold them up a little.

I would have thought cattle compaction would not be that deep and could be taken out with the claydon? There wont be any machinery in the fields for three years so that will be a positive.
 

Great In Grass

Member
Location
Cornwall.
Im thinking of putting grass down and grazing with cattle, it would be down for three or four years to clean up blackgrass and improve the soil structure to allow direct drilling once back in arable and to improve the soil fertility.

The grass would be a mix of ryegrass, timothy, cocksfoot and red and white clover. I would love a true herbal ley but this would be double the seed cost!
A herbal ley shouldn't cost a lot more than the mixture you have quoted particularly as red/white clover has had a slight increase in price for 2016.
 

Richard III

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
CW5 Cheshire
I have a field that was half 3 year ley, half arable, then direct drilled to wheat 7 years ago. I was still getting a yield benefit from the grass side last year and the soil still looks better than the other side. Worry about how to get the next crop established after the grass when you get there in 3 years time, it is not a big deal after a 3 year ley IMO.
 

martian

DD Moderator
BASE UK Member
Location
N Herts
I would have a quiet word with Great in Grass about adding a few herbs in, Joe. Well worth getting some deep rooting chicory for instance, it will help get some deep channels bored into your clays. As Richard says too, you've got 3 or four years to worry about how to come out of the ley...we find wheat cut straight into decaying grass doesn't give it the best start, let alone when wireworm and frit fly etc all want to tuck in to the wheat. Winter beans look like a good opener as they don't seem to mind the toxic stew or grub attack, but I'll let you know more in three years time.
 

tr250

Member
Location
Northants
A comment from near complete ignorance on this matter, but I was walking near some grazing cattle the other day and, compared to the few sheep out the back of my house, they certainly could not be classed as low disturbance. They were pretty sizeable Hereford cattle and they were sinking in big time into the soil. I think not much short of a plough would have been needed to remove their compaction.

Have you thought about sheep? If so, what put you off them?

I had a brief look at the cost of herbal leys a month or so ago and they are ridiculously expensive.
It's too wet for cattle out now surely the op will only let summer grazing cattle. I think if only grazed in the dry cattle will be ok may even be better as they don't leave the surface like a concrete road the way sheep do
 

Rainmaker

Member
Location
Canterbury,NZ
Plenty of studies and farmer experience have found after year 2 the amount of "repair" drops off fairly sharply. The 1st year out of grass is often not the wiz bang you'd think as can see abit of take all and slow mineral release.
 

E_B

Member
Location
Norfolk
Sheep defiantly have lower ground pressure than cows but I haven't got anyone willing to graze it with sheep. The grazing will only be in the summer and the grass will be direct drilled so hopefully the firm soil will hold them up a little.

I would have thought cattle compaction would not be that deep and could be taken out with the claydon? There wont be any machinery in the fields for three years so that will be a positive.

Would the cattle be grazing over winter in these years? If so then yes, as a dairy farmer, I would suspect the poaching would be deep and significant, and not likely restructured enough through the spring and summer before you drill in September.
 

Joe Boy

Member
Location
Essex
Plenty of studies and farmer experience have found after year 2 the amount of "repair" drops off fairly sharply. The 1st year out of grass is often not the wiz bang you'd think as can see abit of take all and slow mineral release.


Yes, this is why I like the idea of growing beans as the first combinable crop after grass.

Do you mean year two of the grass being down or year two of the post grass combinable crops.
 

Tim May

Member
Location
Basingstoke
We did spring beans last year after a red clover rye grass ley last year dd into it after roundup the round up left the clover behind they acted as a great companion to the beans no need for insecticide at drilling, fungicide later on, or an aphicide at the end, because the clover was still in full flower and there was so much life about the place. We grazed half of this crop as we wanted to see how it would do, and that proved it's worth, we can make the decision to graze or not up to mid july and finish grazing by mid august before the pods start to harded and the crop starts to die down. At harvest we just burned it off with reglone, and flew through it, the clover was already 6" from the ground after a week. We span some wheat from the shed onto this and disced it in with a carrier and walked away, it looks a picture now, we'll put some broadway star on later on after a light graze with the sheep.
This spring I'll do the same but add vetch to the mixture as a multi crop, and use the vetch as part of a cover crop in further arable rotations.

I recon this will be how I'll come out of our 4 year leys, but I think I'll also grow some fodder beet on a patch of the area comming out and use the grass as a run back over winter, I'm not too worried about a bit of winter damage, I could put the beans in with a subsoiler type bean drill (or a claydon) if it looks too bad. It was usefull to beable to have a play with this block of land before we get into taking the main blocks out of grass, if it was possible fo you to put in a 2 yr ley as well then you'd have some thing to play with before you had to do a big chunck.
 

Rainmaker

Member
Location
Canterbury,NZ
Yes, this is why I like the idea of growing beans as the first combinable crop after grass.

Do you mean year two of the grass being down or year two of the post grass combinable crops.

Yes Joe year 2 of the grass being down.How long you see a benefit after you start growing arable crops on the land again would have many factors coming into play as you'd know. 2 years grass then beans would set you up well for a decent wheat crop I'm sure everyone would agree.
 

ajd132

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Suffolk
Could you kill the ley in June and plant some cheap cover crop mix for a few months to break up disease and pest cycles before drilling WW
 

Tim May

Member
Location
Basingstoke
Yes Joe year 2 of the grass being down.How long you see a benefit after you start growing arable crops on the land again would have many factors coming into play as you'd know. 2 years grass then beans would set you up well for a decent wheat crop I'm sure everyone would agree.

the only thing about just going for 2 years is that if you're trying to use it for black grass control it might not be long enough, my understanding from one of the blackgrass guru's is that it looses its viability at around 50% per year so after 2 years you'd still have 25% viable seed left, which would probably be too much.

Also I'd suggest it would be easier to get a return on the investment of the grass if you got 4 years out of it instead of 2.
 

Tim W

Member
Location
Wiltshire
.

Also I'd suggest it would be easier to get a return on the investment of the grass if you got 4 years out of it instead of 2.

Coming at it from the graziers end I think that 4 or 5 years is the most cost effective time for a ley. If you want the ley in for less time the amount of rent I am able to pay on top of grass establishment costs will reduce
 

Rainmaker

Member
Location
Canterbury,NZ
the only thing about just going for 2 years is that if you're trying to use it for black grass control it might not be long enough, my understanding from one of the blackgrass guru's is that it looses its viability at around 50% per year so after 2 years you'd still have 25% viable seed left, which would probably be too much.

Also I'd suggest it would be easier to get a return on the investment of the grass if you got 4 years out of it instead of 2.

I've no experience of black grass here in NZ so good point raised Tim. Playing it by ear maybe the order of the day depending on arable prices, persistence of the pasture etc. 2 year leys will have the advantage of getting around the farm sooner but it's horses for courses. :)
 

Joe Boy

Member
Location
Essex
I have a field that was half 3 year ley, half arable, then direct drilled to wheat 7 years ago. I was still getting a yield benefit from the grass side last year and the soil still looks better than the other side. Worry about how to get the next crop established after the grass when you get there in 3 years time, it is not a big deal after a 3 year ley IMO.

That's really encouraging. I think this is a situation were dd has a massive advantage over tillage as it allows the maintenance of the soil structure and biology that the ley has created.

That's what I'm hoping to achieve anyway.
 
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New report underlines need for joined-up action to protect rivers

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New report underlines need for joined-up action to protect rivers

Written by Defra Press Office

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