AHDB to support Innovative Farmers field lab and conduct bale grazing research

Wednesday, 5 July 2023

Bale grazing is increasing in popularity across the UK, with farmers implementing this system citing cost reductions, soil carbon management and animal health as key motivations.

However, the underpinning quality, performance and financial data to support this are lacking.

Pasture for Life is currently coordinating Innovative Farmers field labs at seven farms across Scotland and England which are exploring the practice of bale grazing for overwintering cattle.

The aim is to support farms to collate data over four years to better understand the impacts of bale grazing across a range of locations, soil types and herd sizes in the UK.

AHDB is delighted to support this project and carry out an economic evaluation of each farm to compare bale grazing as an alternative to winter housing. 

This work will complement activity at one of our Beef & Lamb monitor farms, G Sordy & Sons, which  trialled bale grazing for the first time last winter.

Harry Sordy successfully managed to outwinter 160 suckler cows on deferred grass and bales of silage.

He said: "The bale grazing worked well, and we were able to reduce the housing period from 20 weeks to 12, which I have estimated reduced my wintering costs by approximately £10 per cow per week.

"This winter I plan to outwinter more cows and change the way I lay out the bales so that they are easier to spread."

Incorporating this monitor farm into the project will allow further data to be collected on the impacts of outwintering systems on an upland farm.

As it stands there are currently no published UK-based experimental trials to quantify the impact on soil health or forage quantity and quality post-bale grazing, but farmers have expressed an interest in being able to quantify their management interventions.

Our engagement efforts will aim to ensure farmers have the knowledge and confidence to adopt a flexible approach to bale grazing and understand how it can build resilience in their system. 

Forage For Knowledge (interactive grass growth dashboard)