Innovative Farmers: Can we graze sheep on Lucerne?

Date : 12th May, 2020 5:00 pm
Venue : Online Event - Webinar

A group of farmers in Norfolk have teamed up with researchers to investigate whether it’s possible for lucerne to provide extended grazing for sheep in the UK. Join us for an online discussion of this farmer-led research. David Cross, farms a dry mixed farm in North Norfolk and started the trial as he was looking for ways to provide reliable forage during the summer. As well as drought tolerance,  there are a host of other potential benefits to growing lucerne from soil health to input reduction and increased lamb growth rates.

Join David, as he talks through what he learned from his time in New Zealand and how he intends to bring these lessons to the UK.

If you’re considering moving to lucerne as part of your grazing regime, but have some questions or reservations, this webinar is a good place to start.

Researcher and coordinator of the farmer led trial, Dr Liz Genever, will introduce the plan for the project that runs over two grazing seasons, including what measurements are being taken and what they hope to demonstrate. She will also explain how the field lab has been codesigned to best suit the practicalities of the farm whilst providing valuable data for the farming community.

Both Liz and David will talk about how they are approaching and mitigating potential risks to sheep health related to the research, including strict monitoring and early interventions to prevent gut issues and deficiencies. They will also explore the grazing pattern and rotation plan that’s being carried out to ensure regrowth and cover practicalities around establishment and why they chose to grow pure stands and not mixes.


Register for this webinar


Details of the field lab

David is one two farmers in this field lab. As part of the field lab he is currently managing a group of ewe lambs that are lambing on lucerne with the intention of their lambs only grazing lucerne until they are finished or selected for breeding. The performance of this group is being compared to other groups on grass and clover swards.


David Cross – David has experience working on and managing a beef and sheep units in New Zealand and North America, where lucerne is widely used. Now running a sheep flock within the arable enterprise on our family tenanted arable farm situated in northwest Norfolk. The farm is largely light alkaline soils over chalk making is susceptible to drought in the summer.

He wants to integrating legumes, particularly lucerne into the rotation to reduce his dependence on granular fertilisers alongside improving soil health while strengthening the grazing enterprises resilience to seemingly ever changeable weather patterns.

Dr Liz Genever, AHDB and farmer

Liz loves working with progressive farmers who want to challenge their sheep and beef systems – particularly if introducing livestock into an arable business. She has a technical background in sheep and beef fertility and breeding, and grass and forage management. She worked for the UK’s agricultural levy board – Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) – and its predecessors (Meat and Livestock Commission and EBLEX) for thirteen years. Since visiting New Zealand in 2008, she developed tools and techniques to help UK beef and sheep farmers to improve their knowledge of grass and forage management. She is a partner in her family farm with arable, sheep and beef enterprises in south Lincolnshire.

Kate Still, Innovative Farmers (Chair).

Kate has been at the Soil Association since 2010, leading farmer advise on livestock health and welfare; and more recently taking on overall management of the producer focused farming programmes.  Primarily she works with producers, inspectors/assessors, vets and farm advisors and is a specialist in the implementation of welfare outcome assessment as part of farm assurance schemes. Her career has also included practical farming, farm business consultancy and advising farmers in wild plant and habitat conservation.

What is Innovative Farmers?

Innovative Farmers is a not for profit network giving farmers research support and funding on their own terms. Through trialling, testing and hands-on research, we’re helping farmers find lasting solutions to practical problems. The network is part of the Duchy Future Farming Programme, funded by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation. Innovative Farmers is backed by a team from LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming), Innovation for Agriculture, the Organic Research Centre and led by the Soil Association, supported by Waitrose. Sign up to receive our newsletter.

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