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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘Trampling grass helps add organic matter to the soil’ – 900ac farmer

A six-strong cohort of farmers are participating in a new on-farm trial that aims to test if mob grazing – sometimes known as tall grass grazing – can boost forage fields while maintaining milk production and supporting nature and soil health.

One such farmer is Debbie Wilkins, who runs a 900-acre, conventional mixed enterprise on a floodplain in the Severn Vale with dairy beef and arable.

She said: “I have heard mob grazing works well on brittle environments, which is not what we have here in the Severn Vale, so I am keen to see how it works on my farm.”

“After our first weighing, the tall stemmy grass is giving similar growth rates of 0.8 kg/day to the conventionally grazed grass.”

“Time will tell if there is enough nutrition to have good growth rates all season. There is a lot to discover and manage, and it will be interesting to see how it progresses.”

Debbie is grazing weaned to 12-month-old progeny in the trial in two groups on daily moves.

Half are on grass leys sown with grasses and herbs that cope with flooding, and the other half are on permanent pasture flood meadows.

The tall-grass group is going in at high covers of 6,000+ kg/dry matter (DM) on plate meter, and she reports that “it [grass] is getting quite a bit of trampling, which helps add organic matter to the soil”.

Underperforming fields on 900ac dairy farm

Another farm involved in the trial is that of Tom and Sophie Gregory, who have been battling with underperforming fields on their 900-acre organic dairy farm in Dorset.

They farm a block calving system of 360 cows and are determined to utilise all their fields while minimising their use of organic fertilisers and supporting better biodiversity and water quality, but without risking the yield of their herd.

Tom is of the view that there could also be animal health benefits.

He believes that as the animals will move on at a faster rate, there will potentially be fewer flies.

Furthermore, the stock will not be grazing as low, which he thinks may possibly lend itself to less exposure to fluke and worm eggs.

Lastly, he believes this should minimise the risk of underfeeding as they will be eating what they need – resulting in optimum health and production.

Read our article on mob grazing.

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