Moving to a forage-based system
An AHDB case study providing insights into farmer Tim May’s quest of transitioning to a completely forage-based system.
This AHDB Beef & Lamb Better Returns Programme case study briefly describes the investments and plans of farmer Tim May as he transitions to a complete forage-based system.
Tim runs Pitt Hall Farm in Hampshire which consists of 1000 hectares (ha). It explains that 360 ha of herbal leys were sown in May 2013. They have 1,700 mule ewes (including 500 ewe lambs) that lamb outdoors in May and they also have 150 yearling cattle.
The case study outlines the investments Tim has made in establishing home-grown forages and the associated infrastructure. It also highlights the grazing management system and data collection he and his consultant have carried out to help match feed supply to demand.
Findings & recommendations
- The study explains that:
- Tim aims to maintain a complete home-grown forage diet for his flock.
- The target was to increase crop yield by focusing on soil health, using crop rotation and a mixed farming system.
- 90 ha of cereal were undersown with red clover for lamb finishing.
- Stubble turnips and fodder beet were utilised for winter feed.
- They fenced all grassland with semi-permanent three-strand tensile mains electric fence. They also used temporary electric fencing to adjust forage supply according to stock requirements.
- After scanning, ewes were split into groups of approximately 150, based on the age and number of lambs scanned. These were rotationally grazed with three or four days shifts until lambing.
- During the grazing season, some cattle were also rotationally grazed in one to three day shifts.
- Tim and his consultant monitored the pasture sward height before and after grazing to manage feed supply and demand, and were aiming to assess the quantity visually once they got used to measuring the grass, rather than taking direct measurements.
- After weaning in August/September, the lambs would be moved onto grass and clover or the undersown red clover leys.
To find out more about Tim’s approach and motivations, view the Agricology profile.