Grass growth peaks yet to arrive for many sheep farmers

Friday, 15 May 2020

At the middle of May, grass growth peaks are yet to arrive for many, with a cooler week seen on upland farms, while some southern and lowland areas still need more rain to improve soil moisture levels.

Strategic Beef & Lamb Farms across England give us a snapshot of how the 2020 grazing season is going for them so far.

Neil Brown – Shropshire

We have been very short of grass throughout lambing, with the fields lying very wet, then becoming very dry in a short space of time. The younger leys are growing more grass, with the older leys struggling, but I have applied some urea and last week’s rain will help.

We are supplementing cows at grass with silage and mobbing bunches of sheep in larger groups to allow longer rest periods before grazing fields again. I have split some fields in half to graze down covers more efficiently.

Mark Jelley – Northamptonshire

We had good early growth after shutting up well last autumn, but the dry spell really knocked growth back in the last two weeks. However, we have more grass than we would have had on the farm at this time if not managing the grazing.

We have planted 6 ha of Westerwolds for silage, but germination is very patchy. We worked, sowed and rolled within a few hours and thought we had maintained enough moisture, but, as I write, we are desperate for rain. What is now obvious is that getting the closing up right in the autumn is really valuable and easily overlooked. 

Richard and Laila Carruthers – Cumbria

We received 770 mm of rain January–end of March. Destocked fields had good grass covers, ranging from 1500 to 2500 kg/DM ha due to wet soils. Lambing fields started with reasonable growth and carried ewes well with some added fodder beet, only 2 t of concentrate for thin ewes and triplets. A rape/rye-grass mix has been excellent, carrying 185 fell twins on 5 ha for three weeks to date.

As I write, we are in need of rain now as grass growth has come to a stop on most of the older leys and we have started caking some twins. We have 6 ha ready to sow with new leys when rain arrives.

Check out the latest GrassCheck GB data for your region