Fascinating New Pastures For Dairy Cows.....Thanks to Innovative Farmers
Many pasture based dairy farmers in both France & the UK are experimenting with mixed pasture swards. These “New Pastures” always include an abundance of clovers & increasingly include Herbs such as Chicory & Plantain. The inclusion of the deep rooting herbs adds a completely new dimension to pastures for grazing dairy cows.
These pastures are very different from conventional pastures in many ways. Nitrogen fed pastures tend to be monocultures of ryegrasses. Well managed ryegrass clover pastures are highly productive. The clover content is related to the grazing intensity & the amount of nitrogen used. The mixed pastures offer considerable biodiversity, interesting possible changes to the cows diet, generally higher protein levels but more complex grazing properties. In mixed species pastures some plants are grazed out & its difficult to graze according to every plant’s requirements. However these new pastures might well enhance the health benefits of grass fed milk.
Last week in Dorset with the Realfarmers Discussion Group, we viewed new Plantain plus clover pastures that were sown this spring. Its early days but it looks very impressive so far given that it’s been a very dry period of weather. These pastures were first grazed at the six leaf stage.
In Brittany, France on a recent study tour we saw a mix of new mixed sward pastures including some very productive organic Lucerne pastures that included grasses & clovers.
This farm’s pasture consumption per hectare was over 10 Tonnes DM/ha which is exceptional for an organic farm in a dry area.
There was also a range of mixed pastures that included Chicory.
These included Chicory plus Kale + grasses. This is an interesting on farm experiment. On the same farm there was Oats under sown with Chicory.
Many of these experiments are occurring on dry soils where ryegrass may not be the best option…..or rather there might be much better options.
The true value of these mixed sward pastures isn’t fully understood & there is an element of “Suck & See” trialling by innovative pasture based dairy farmers.
One thing for sure is that the “traditional view of what a dairy pasture looks like” is being severely tested. We look forward to seeing the outcomes especially as the climate warming predictions for the UK include drier summers & more variation in climatic patterns.
Current UK Pasture Measurements
Pasture growths have slowed dramatically in the drier areas of the Midlands.However in the higher rainfall areas growth rates are still excellent.
Tom Phillips proudly a Kiwi. I'm based at the New Centre of Excellence in Farm Business Management, Massey University, New Zealand.The Centre is a joint project of both Massey & Lincoln Universities. International Low Cost Pasture based Dairy Industry Consultant has worked in New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Ireland & France.Expert in grazing management & dairy farm business management,Onfarm Discussion Group facilitation & training.
I am a strong advocate for pasture based dairy farming partly because it is environmentally & animal friendly with a low carbon footprint but also it creates a profitable strong business which is family friendly.