Advice for new converts?

TexelBen

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
North Yorkshire
We're in the progress of sorting our grassland out, we've divided our biggest fields up for rotational grazing (we've been doing that since late last year). We've a few left to do when finds allow. In the last month we've soil tested and applied lime to correct the pH. Last year we subsoiled our biggest most compacted field, and plan to do the rest when it's dry enough. We're trying to keep on top of rushes and thistles with the weed wiper and topping the hell outta the rushes, and it's making a difference. What else can we be doing to help the grass along? We run sheep mainly (3 Dexter cows too) and want the land to perform better and be healthier, I don't wanna just throw bags of fert at it.

Tia
 

holwellcourtfarm

Member
NFFN Member
We're in the progress of sorting our grassland out, we've divided our biggest fields up for rotational grazing (we've been doing that since late last year). We've a few left to do when finds allow. In the last month we've soil tested and applied lime to correct the pH. Last year we subsoiled our biggest most compacted field, and plan to do the rest when it's dry enough. We're trying to keep on top of rushes and thistles with the weed wiper and topping the hell outta the rushes, and it's making a difference. What else can we be doing to help the grass along? We run sheep mainly (3 Dexter cows too) and want the land to perform better and be healthier, I don't wanna just throw bags of fert at it.

Tia
Where in the UK are you? Do you only have sheep or have you any cattle as well? I have seen evidence of where high intensity "Holistic planed grazing" has cleared rushes almost completely in a couple of years and returned land to good diverse pasture. It would depend on your situation, resources and managment though. Chemicals are not the only answer.

@Sheila Cooke
@ShooTa
@Agrispeed
@Kiwi Pete
 
Fergal's Field.jpg
Where in the UK are you? Do you only have sheep or have you any cattle as well? I have seen evidence of where high intensity "Holistic planed grazing" has cleared rushes almost completely in a couple of years and returned land to good diverse pasture. It would depend on your situation, resources and managment though. Chemicals are not the only answer.

@Sheila Cooke
@ShooTa
@Agrispeed
@Kiwi Pete
Yes, @TexelBen, what @holwellcourtfarm said is correct. It's entirely possible to clear out rushes with holistic planned grazing.

A year ago, we did ecological monitoring in Festival Field at Moy Hill Community Farm (in Ireland) and we found 19% rushes. In May 2019, Fergal sent this photo and texted me:

Hi Sheila, here is a photo of the girls in the field you have done the survey in and wow it looks good! Amazing after one season of the cows going through -- it’s a different field. Nearly no rushes left in the field now and the grass is growing so tall! The neighbours are all talking about it already and want to cut it for hay! Thanks for the help. Going to start grazing it next week. Fergal

https://inwpusdm.tkhcloudstorage.com/Item/ec8f23013ddd4860b8bede1f6f211780
 
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holwellcourtfarm

Member
NFFN Member
Hi Folks, I'm not sure I shared the photo properly above. What do you recommend? How do you do it?
It does work Sheila but the normal way is to use the "upload a file" button below the reply box and then click on "browse" and select the photo on your computer. It then uploads and appears under the message offering you the chance to place it in your reply as a thumbnail or a full image.
 
It does work Sheila but the normal way is to use the "upload a file" button below the reply box and then click on "browse" and select the photo on your computer. It then uploads and appears under the message offering you the chance to place it in your reply as a thumbnail or a full image.
That's much better. Thanks!
 

TexelBen

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
North Yorkshire
Where in the UK are you? Do you only have sheep or have you any cattle as well? I have seen evidence of where high intensity "Holistic planed grazing" has cleared rushes almost completely in a couple of years and returned land to good diverse pasture. It would depend on your situation, resources and managment though. Chemicals are not the only answer.

@Sheila Cooke
@ShooTa
@Agrispeed
@Kiwi Pete
North Yorkshire, we've only 3 dexter cows, the main focus is sheep. We don't have a lot of resources and I work full time off farm.
 

Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
Good subdivision will be your friend, I'd think.
The more paddocks you can create, even if you can subdivide main fields into strips that you can easily fence smaller with temp electric fencing, the better grazing control you'll be able to keep - and changes happen much faster when you have good control.
It's simply about having your stock in the right place at the right time
 

onesiedale

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Derbyshire
We're in the progress of sorting our grassland out, we've divided our biggest fields up for rotational grazing (we've been doing that since late last year). We've a few left to do when finds allow. In the last month we've soil tested and applied lime to correct the pH. Last year we subsoiled our biggest most compacted field, and plan to do the rest when it's dry enough. We're trying to keep on top of rushes and thistles with the weed wiper and topping the hell outta the rushes, and it's making a difference. What else can we be doing to help the grass along? We run sheep mainly (3 Dexter cows too) and want the land to perform better and be healthier, I don't wanna just throw bags of fert at it.

Tia
If you are just getting started with rotational grazing then I would recommend getting yourself a plate meter, or even just a measuring stick to get you going. Whilst this doesn't necessarily give you all the answers, what it does do is discipline and help you monitor, observe and understand how your grass growth is through the year. It gets you to walk the grass.
When grazing,, smaller the paddocks the better and try to keep a back fence behind to stop new grass being eaten.
Plenty of water pipe and tanks that are movable to follow the stock round.
 

Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
My own feeling is to bump and bodge your way through for a while, rather than get out the chequebook - we have a nicely subdivided farmlet, but it's mostly "wrong for what I want to do next".

Unsure who said so, may have been Gabe Brown? But someone smart said something along those lines as well.
Permanent fencing/troughs seldom get put in the right place, and so they can be pretty expensive "mistakes" even if well planned.
Generally in a grazing setup it's these areas and permanent gateways that end up damaged, especially on a wetter farm, as the fertility tends to rapidly head towards these spots - so imagine the potential if your whole farm can be "a stock camp" for a minute.
The why - generally the animals are heading through the gateway quickly and all in a bunch, up under those trees where they spend the night - these landscape features are fantastic clues as to what can be achieved on your land and soil: big healthy plants, all by themself!

The next step is your attempt at recreating this next level of plant expression, over wider and wider areas .
 
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Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
So in that vein my advice would be, spend a bit on portable/temporary water and fencing, you'll always have use for it.

Secondly, try to minimise how many mobs you run, fences and water for one mob is a hobby really, for 5 mobs it would be either a nightmare or a big compromise.

Thirdly, don't spend your life reading books and looking for proofs - get out there and experiment, experiment, experiment... do things "right", do things "wrong", observe, take notes and pictures galore.
You'll really only understand when you look back in a few months time as to why this area has so much diversity, or more bare soil, or the plants are bigger etc etc.
Books and podcasts won't give you that same feedback and that's the big key to HM working - your feedback loop.

It's a huge learning curve, but that's life: you live it in one direction, and understand it best looking the other way...

Sometimes, if you're looking to reduce inputs (and actually doing it) then you'll see things that aren't working as well - try to keep an open mind to these "bits".
They're also good clues.

One clue was that we tended to put good weight on lambs early, then they started to hang - so we sold the fats fat and the rest store, instead of putting profit out the exhaust pipe "creating quality" feed for lambs.

In that vein it's important to strip your business back to the core and see what drives it, what is crucial and what's simply "nice", in a wet year this place finishes lambs very well, and I can buy store lambs in that eventuality.

Our keys have been reducing our capital stock numbers (despite popular advice), by being able to be fluid in terms of stocking makes a large difference for us and our other time commitments - community, family, work etc and focus more on simply growing good grass when others want it most.
Also with the cattle, running bulls has made a difference to profits as we can shift a portion off mid-summer to the dairy farmers, about the time the growth is slowing off we get paid well to destock a bit, that $500 lease means a $1000 bull calf now owes us much less when we cut his head off.

So it can be a very different picture when you remake the jigsaw without prejudice, I can honestly say the only reason our farm business survived was by radical changes made - we moved in 3 years ago last week, and it's really beginning to pay.

Remember other people will pay stupid money to achieve what can be done with time and observation, and exploit their impatience and greed if you can.

(sorry folks)
 

Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
Can I ask how important it is to have cows as well as sheep?
That depends on what you want and what you can easily do .

I've had the analogy made:
You have an empty bowl and belly (degraded landscape) and a large pot of stew is brought to you (easily rectifying the above)
You go to the cutlery drawer - do you pick the chopsticks, the big big spoon, or the teaspoon?
Cropping = chopsticks
Sheep = soup spoon
Cattle = ladle

Now, you'll get fed with any of those - how much time do you want to feel hungry for?

The obvious is to use the big and little spoons, for the most rapid results in terms of improvement.
However things like ragwort, triple drench resistance, scab, rainfall, skill set, all have a big bearing on what tools you pick up - that's my tuppence
 

Bury the Trash

Member
Mixed Farmer
That depends on what you want and what you can easily do .

I've had the analogy made:
You have an empty bowl and belly (degraded landscape) and a large pot of stew is brought to you (easily rectifying the above)
You go to the cutlery drawer - do you pick the chopsticks, the big big spoon, or the teaspoon?
Cropping = chopsticks
Sheep = soup spoon
Cattle = ladle

Now, you'll get fed with any of those - how much time do you want to feel hungry for?

The obvious is to use the big and little spoons, for the most rapid results in terms of improvement.
However things like ragwort, triple drench resistance, scab, rainfall, skill set, all have a big bearing on what tools you pick up - that's my tuppence
Dont forget BTB ;)
 
Ill advocate what @Kiwi Pete said about recording - this is your best tool moving foward - Its why i have an instagram - i vowed to try and do 1 pic a day - and it90% of the time is of the sheep - but it forces me to take photos when im witht he flock - how im setting fences, what the grass is like before they go in- condition etc. As ive talked with @hendrebc about grass growth once it gets stemmy all the platemeters and sward sticks become kinda useless.. and you have to go on gut instinct and the animals.... hence why photos are so good. - just spend the due diligence to put them into separate folders (month or field) once youve put them onto the computer..
 

Karliboy

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
West Yorkshire
My own feeling is to bump and bodge your way through for a while, rather than get out the chequebook

Can’t agree more with this as it’s what I’m currently doing bodging my way through and it’s giving me ideas on how I need to do things for the future.
Water is my issue as I have lots of wire and stakes.

I’m currently trying to get water into a field that I’ve been on about in Pete’s thread that has very little and it’s in the wrong place to be useful.
Plan is to try and siphon out of a stream in field above down into a permanent tank at top of desired field to give some storage capacity from there I can then put out a portable drinker as I move the cells around going down hill from the tank hopefully.
If it doesn’t work I’ve still got all the pipe left as that’s all I need to buy at the moment and it will come in for something else.

This looks place looks to have keen prices on pipe if your looking.
https://www.pipestock.com/mdpe/mdpe-pipe-coils-blue
 

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Man fined £300 for bonfire-related waste offences

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Written by William Kellett from Agriland

court-640x360.jpg
A man has pleaded guilty at Newtownards Magistrates’ Court to waste offences relating to a bonfire next to the electrical sub-station on the Circular Road in Newtownards, Co. Down.

Gareth Gill (51) of Abbot’s Walk, Newtownards pleaded guilty to two charges under the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, for which he was fined £150 each and ordered to pay a £15 offender’s levy

On June 25, 2018, PSNI officers went to Gill’s yard, where they found a large amount of waste consisting of scrap wood, pallets, carpet and underlay.

Discussion with Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) officers confirmed the site...
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