Herbal leys for dairy cattle grazing

crashbox

Member
Livestock Farmer
Moving over to herbal leys here for dairy cow grazing (holsteins on conventional system). Drought prone soil and low summer rainfall are main reasons.

Lots of advice out there but seems more beef/sheep than dairy focus. So for dairy cows...

Who's got them?
What do you put in them?
Are the 'less conventional ' herbs worth it? (Yarrow, sheep's parsley, Burnet, etc.)
Do you have to extend the rotation length?
Do you leave longer residuals?
Discuss!

TIA!
 

sidjon

Member
Location
EXMOOR
Using rye grass, clover with Boston plantain, high stocked spring herd, so far plantain is doing OK, have tried chicory twice and killed it twice, once managed with the grass and second time managed with the chicory, don't think and of the other weeds/herbs would survive under our grazing pressure.
 

som farmer

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
somerset
2 pics, 1 plantain, 2 chicory, both been grazed x5 this year, both sown last autumn, and the plantains are on really dry ground. Perhaps the biggest shock, is how easy they are to establish, they nearly out grow weeds. Chicory is spreading round the farm, just by putting a bit in with the N.
cows love them, no problems with them eating them.
we tried vetch, in 1 ley, it came, they ate, it went, although sown with h/rye, it did extremely well, and the two together, yielded 15ton/acre, and we have a superb crop of maize, sown behind it.
in the grazing leys, just plantain and chicory, and very pleased with them, as we are a dry farm, and suffered badly, the last 3 yrs, we are giving them a go, along with cocksfoot, fesques timothy, and 'drought' tolerant prg, unfortunately, or thankfully, this wasn't the year to test them for drought conditions All l can say is they have grown very well, and competed with prg leys, in the grazing rotation.
What has been very noticeable, is prg is very prone to sending up a seed head, very quickly, when stressed, the others, don't, which lengthens the rotation, which we have found allows grass/herbs and clover, to develop more root, which in turn, makes the plant more resilient.
Expanding the range of herbs, we were going to try a real diverse mix, but son not quite so keen now, the chicory plantain and clover, is giving very good results. Trefoil, grows wild here, and it grows where there is no competition, as does wild vetch, both of which look 'straggly' and weak, some of the 'others' l know nothing about. As we draw closer to the end of the grazing period, my impression is they have given, along with the 'dry' grasses, a more even feed, than prg, they don't throw up seed heads so readily as prg.
Fully agree much more info on them, from beef/sheep, aspect, but here, they tend to really grow, as prg slows down, exactly what we wanted/needed. With loads of clover, as in first pic, they make an ideal feed for cows, rather than some of the more mature pics, of beef pasture !
The real drawback, is weed control, no spray to use, so it's down to spot spray, and topping, all in all, l think it has been a success, and we will keep including them, possibly with a grazing type lucerne.
If you don't try it, you will never know, and these 2 seem to germinate and grow, just by spinning on, though the first ones were properly drilled.
IMG_0206[1].JPG
IMG_0073[1].JPG
 

In the pit

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Pembrokeshire
These herbal leys seem okay at beginning but under normal grazing conditions for the ryegrass are they gonna stick it
From what I’ve read more of these species will have run there course by 3 years, so do you have to keep putting seed on to keep them going??
Personally a good ryegrass/ clover ley will do you well but get the clover upto 30%
 
2 pics, 1 plantain, 2 chicory, both been grazed x5 this year, both sown last autumn, and the plantains are on really dry ground. Perhaps the biggest shock, is how easy they are to establish, they nearly out grow weeds. Chicory is spreading round the farm, just by putting a bit in with the N.
cows love them, no problems with them eating them.
we tried vetch, in 1 ley, it came, they ate, it went, although sown with h/rye, it did extremely well, and the two together, yielded 15ton/acre, and we have a superb crop of maize, sown behind it.
in the grazing leys, just plantain and chicory, and very pleased with them, as we are a dry farm, and suffered badly, the last 3 yrs, we are giving them a go, along with cocksfoot, fesques timothy, and 'drought' tolerant prg, unfortunately, or thankfully, this wasn't the year to test them for drought conditions All l can say is they have grown very well, and competed with prg leys, in the grazing rotation.
What has been very noticeable, is prg is very prone to sending up a seed head, very quickly, when stressed, the others, don't, which lengthens the rotation, which we have found allows grass/herbs and clover, to develop more root, which in turn, makes the plant more resilient.
Expanding the range of herbs, we were going to try a real diverse mix, but son not quite so keen now, the chicory plantain and clover, is giving very good results. Trefoil, grows wild here, and it grows where there is no competition, as does wild vetch, both of which look 'straggly' and weak, some of the 'others' l know nothing about. As we draw closer to the end of the grazing period, my impression is they have given, along with the 'dry' grasses, a more even feed, than prg, they don't throw up seed heads so readily as prg.
Fully agree much more info on them, from beef/sheep, aspect, but here, they tend to really grow, as prg slows down, exactly what we wanted/needed. With loads of clover, as in first pic, they make an ideal feed for cows, rather than some of the more mature pics, of beef pasture !
The real drawback, is weed control, no spray to use, so it's down to spot spray, and topping, all in all, l think it has been a success, and we will keep including them, possibly with a grazing type lucerne.
If you don't try it, you will never know, and these 2 seem to germinate and grow, just by spinning on, though the first ones were properly drilled.
View attachment 981947View attachment 981950
Thats not really a herbal ley. Looks good tho, but only 5 grazings would put it at about 8tdmha. With your rain I'd have thought you would have been nearer 10
 
These herbal leys seem okay at beginning but under normal grazing conditions for the ryegrass are they gonna stick it
From what I’ve read more of these species will have run there course by 3 years, so do you have to keep putting seed on to keep them going??
Personally a good ryegrass/ clover ley will do you well but get the clover upto 30%
For clover to be 30% of dm it needs to look like 70% of fresh.
 

In the pit

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Pembrokeshire
There’s always a fad , had a few dry years and people start drilling all sorts of seeds , then we get a fantastic growing year like this year and think what was the point
A good ryegrass/ clover ley will give you upto 15t and in some cases beyond
Once ryegrass goes to seed that plant has died , seeds drop and start to grow and regenerates the ground
 
Location
Ceredigion
If you go back 10/15 years we used to put 3/4 kgs clover seed in a grass mix but now it’s lucky if there’s above 1kg in it
Most of my own sowings I put 2kg in, mixes go out with 1kg but I have bags of all sorts here that some take as extras and mix in , but if conditions are correct 1kg will give a realy good take

What I notice is that most farmers want their seed yesterday so end up taking a standard mix of anything they can get , if they thought in advance they could get a custom mix to suet their soil type and system

For my local customers I keep a massive stock of all sorts of seed so can usually provide for their needs
 
Last edited:

som farmer

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
somerset
Thats not really a herbal ley. Looks good tho, but only 5 grazings would put it at about 8tdmha. With your rain I'd have thought you would have been nearer 10
it's fantastic compared to the last 3 summers, and growth was very slow start of year, and the first pic, is on some of the driest ground, and exposed, so for that ground, better than normal growth ! We do try and leave a longer rotation, we think that allows more root growth, which should make the plant more resilient to stress, pleased with that last year, this year, not the season to test it !
We included the herbs, in the hope they would keep going, in a dry spell, we don't know the answer, all we can say, herbs were good first round, then grass took over, and now grass is slowing down, clover and herbs are getting stronger, which is why we tried them.
It's not a 'proper' diverse mix, edging our way in, by trial and error, found vetch doesn't work in a grazing ley, the biggest suprise, is that plantain and chicory are so easy to establish, chicory especially, odd handfuls in with fert, and away it goes, and, there are odd plants showing up all over the farm, even where not intended.
We are still very low on ground moisture, we have a slew here working, and it's still very dry 8-12 ins down, stream through farm, stopped running, 4 yrs on the trot, never known that before, just as never had 3 drought summers in a row, so something needed to change, even with a better summer, it's not been the easiest of seasons, with periods of both slow, and fast growth, so, overall pleased.
Spin off, from this dry patch now, barley came off at 14%, so will dry roll, rather than crimp, good yield, and plenty os straw.
 

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