Multi-Species Swards for Beef and Sheep
What is the project about?
There is significant evidence to suggest that increasing the diversity of plant species can counteract some of the challenges faced by beef and sheep production systems in Northern Ireland. There are many suggested benefits to incorporating grass, legume and herb species in grazing platforms, such as their deep rooting properties and improved soil health which reduces the requirement for fertiliser input. Additionally, there are reports of multi-species swards (MSS) holding anthelmintic properties. Despite this, there is a considerable lack of information surrounding the use of multi-species swards on farms in Northern Ireland.
This project, led by AgriSearch, brings together researchers and farmers to investigate the feasibility and practicality of incorporating multi-species swards on Northern Ireland commercial beef and sheep farms. It aims to increase the knowledge of multi-species sward establishment and management in different geographical areas of Northern Ireland, as well as determining their impact on animal performance, enterprise profitability and the wider environment.
How will the project be implemented?
Each of the six farms in the Operational Group will establish multi-species swards suitable to their specific farm conditions and objectives trialing different mixes of swards and establishment methods. The impact of the multi-species swards on animal performance will be assessed by considering live weight gain and observations on animal preferences, nutritional effects and health benefits.
Information on MSS management techniques, fertiliser requirements, weed burdens and persistence will also be monitored to help develop best practice and provide farmers with practical guidelines based on a range of conditions.
This project will also explore the effect of MSS on biodiversity and soil carbon.