Mating sheep on red clover swards field lab

Brid @ ADAS

Member
Grassland Exhibitor
We're investigating if grazing ewes on grass leys containing red clover affects their fertility as part of a new field lab with Innovative Farmers. After an initial meeting, one of our trial farmers could no longer participate so we are looking for another (preferably someone based in the West Midlands or Welsh borders) to take part.
If you have some established grass leys containing red clover and are willing to mate a group of at least 50 ewes on them, we would be grateful for your help with this research. Contact Consultant Gillian Preece if you are able to take part [email protected] or 07741 384992

More information on what will be involved can be found on the Innovative Farmers website.
Even if you can't help but would be interested in the results, you can follow progress on the website too. Thanks!
 
You don’t think it does then? Maybe it’s not as much of a waste if time then.
No mate I thought it has been fairly well established that it was an old wives tale and doesn’t really effect them despite containing estrogen, it would only have a negative effect potentially, with a large cumulative effect. I have been mating ewes on red clover for last seven years.

Mind you how will the study have any scientific value what so ever as there will be a huge range of other potential factors.
 

Electricfencer

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Cotswolds
No mate I thought it has been fairly well established that it was an old wives tale and doesn’t really effect them despite containing estrogen, it would only have a negative effect potentially, with a large cumulative effect. I have been mating ewes on red clover for last seven years.

Mind you how will the study have any scientific value what so ever as there will be a huge range of other potential factors.
Well that’s my lesson for the day. My neighbors grow huge amounts of red clover that the make a real fuss about there big flock ewes being of 8 weeks before tupping.
 

Brid @ ADAS

Member
Grassland Exhibitor
No mate I thought it has been fairly well established that it was an old wives tale and doesn’t really effect them despite containing estrogen, it would only have a negative effect potentially, with a large cumulative effect. I have been mating ewes on red clover for last seven years.

Mind you how will the study have any scientific value what so ever as there will be a huge range of other potential factors.
@CopperBeech sounds like you would be a good one for this! Yes the research that originally said red clover affects fertility was done in the 60s and 70s in the southern hemisphere. Pure red clover swards were used for that research too, not mixed swards. If we can prove here on multiple farms that it doesn't have an effect, maybe more will give it a go...
 
Location
Devon
We're investigating if grazing ewes on grass leys containing red clover affects their fertility as part of a new field lab with Innovative Farmers. After an initial meeting, one of our trial farmers could no longer participate so we are looking for another (preferably someone based in the West Midlands or Welsh borders) to take part.
If you have some established grass leys containing red clover and are willing to mate a group of at least 50 ewes on them, we would be grateful for your help with this research. Contact Consultant Gillian Preece if you are able to take part [email protected] or 07741 384992

More information on what will be involved can be found on the Innovative Farmers website.
Even if you can't help but would be interested in the results, you can follow progress on the website too. Thanks!

How much are you paying the farmers to take part in this study @Brid @ ADAS ??
 

Tim W

Member
Location
Wiltshire
@CopperBeech sounds like you would be a good one for this! Yes the research that originally said red clover affects fertility was done in the 60s and 70s in the southern hemisphere. Pure red clover swards were used for that research too, not mixed swards. If we can prove here on multiple farms that it doesn't have an effect, maybe more will give it a go...
Same experience as @CopperBeech 25% RC leys were used here for 8 years (maybe more) with high scanning %age and great weaning %age and growth rates
 

Bury the Trash

Member
Mixed Farmer
@CopperBeech sounds like you would be a good one for this! Yes the research that originally said red clover affects fertility was done in the 60s and 70s in the southern hemisphere. Pure red clover swards were used for that research too, not mixed swards. If we can prove here on multiple farms that it doesn't have an effect, maybe more will give it a go...
Plant breeders again could be key.
ie breeding modern varieties of RC relatively low /lower in oestrogen.
they might sell more to sheep farmers then if they publicise that difference from the older perhaps they already do this in New Zealand :unsure:
 
Plant breeders again could be key.
ie breeding modern varieties of RC relatively low /lower in oestrogen.
they might sell more to sheep farmers then if they publicise that difference from the older perhaps they already do this in New Zealand :unsure:

There is a wad of published research findings from both Australia and NZ from 40 odd years ago. I personally see no point in doing grazing trials when the thresholds affecting ewe fertility are already known. It's all depends upon the quantity of the photo-estrogen ingested. This depends on the variety of RC used (old Cowgrass group and Pawera are both high), the % of RC in the sward (all clovers are over-estimated by visual inspection, eg. a 50% RC sward looks more like 90% RC, % best done by cut sample dissection into species) and the total kgs of pasture on offer.
One of the annoying ongoing beliefs is it is a seasonal problem, where it affects ewe fertility only when fed around mating time. This is utter BS, it is accumulative, Equol (is actually synthesised in the rumen from the plant present Formatonetin) acts on the tissues of the female reproductive tract at any time of the year when it is in the ewe's blood stream. It is not temporary like the fungal disease Black Spot on Lucerne. Equol has a very minor affect on ovulation rate, but major affects sperm transport, embryonic implantation and the birthing process (dystocia).

Promotion of low estrogen varieties is what is needed. If they are less available then pressure should be put on UK plant breeders to develop such.
 
Could there not be different effects for different breeds?
I'm not sure about the fertility effects but there certainly can be other problems from grazing red clover that are. A few years ago I saw a presentation at the Sheep Veterinary Society which detailed Lleyn ewes (possibly some Texel blood?) suffering from copper poisoning while grazing red clover leys. The presenter said it was unlikely to be a problem in darker-faced sheep which are more copper hungry.
 
I'm not sure about the fertility effects but there certainly can be other problems from grazing red clover that are. A few years ago I saw a presentation at the Sheep Veterinary Society which detailed Lleyn ewes (possibly some Texel blood?) suffering from copper poisoning while grazing red clover leys. The presenter said it was unlikely to be a problem in darker-faced sheep which are more copper hungry.

The possibility of copper poisoning occurring in some copper efficient sheep breeds is definitely not a Red Clover specific problem, but is a feature of all clover species and many of the legumes. This is because such forage species take up more trace elements than grasses from the soil. Therefore these legumes will contain the bulk of the copper in what sheep ingest irrespective of the soil Cu level. Sheep selectively graze if given the opportunity with legumes high on their preference list, therefore Cu blood levels will be higher where this occurs.
 

Update on the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot

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Update on the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot

Written by Lisa Applin

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In July, we opened the applications window for farmers to join our Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive is 1 of the 3 new environmental land management schemes. It sits alongside the future Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery schemes.

Through the Sustainable Farming Incentive, farmers will be paid for environmentally sustainable actions – ones that are simple to do and do not require previous agri-environment scheme experience.

We are piloting the scheme to...
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