Grass management measures as simple as closing the gate behind you could make your business more efficient, grassland advisor Gareth Davies told the Efficient Lamb Production Conference.

The ‘grazing enthusiast’ and former Nuffield scholar addressed the Northern Ireland Sheep Conference yesterday at Greenmount College.

Davies said: “Most sheep farmers would make a lot more money if they would just close the gate behind them – you’ve got to rest the plant.

“Graze it, move them on, close the gate behind them and let the grass rest.”

Davies also warned that while soil analysis was useful, that the results needed to be much more specific, adding that he had seen cases where the ‘wrong type’ of lime had been damaging to fields.”Gareth Davies

‘Mindset is everything’

“The people at the top of their game are very open-minded. With Brexit and everything coming up it’s going to be the people who are efficient who will thrive.

You have to think of it that we are running a business – and I know it’s a family farm, but it’s also a business – a manufacturing business and you have to think like one.

“Anyone who doesn’t think of themselves that way may as well walk out the door now, because going forward it’s business – there’s no room for inefficiency.

Grass can be expensive

“Grass is not always your cheapest feed – because quality grass is your cheapest form of food.

“Poor-quality grass is actually your most expensive form of feed. I know from a lot of work and grass analysis when it’s managed properly every single farm [we sampled] at some point in the month was able to hit over 12 ME (Metabolisable Energy).

“It just goes to show you can take quality through the seasons if it’s managed properly.

“This is the number one issue I have with sheep farmers – getting them to move their sheep before there’s nothing left in the field – they always think, ‘Oh there’s another couple of days in there.’

More grass gives more options

“Better grass management means you can carry a lot more grass which gives you a lot more options – and business options.

If you can up your stock numbers you can start to lower your cost of production. If you can still keep the same amount of stock and feed less supplementary feeds then you will still lower your cost of production.

“Going forward that’s what your aim is – to try to match your stock arrangements to your grass growth.”

Davies also stressed the importance of soil fertility in managing grassland.

He said: “There’s only one type of farmer – and that’s a soil farmer. You can make grass grow by throwing things at it; but that’s not efficient.

“Once you start to do some form of rotational grazing you’ll start to notice which fields are under-performing – even if you’re not doing any form of recording or analysis.

“You’ll realise if you’re able to graze some fields more than others. Go and identify the poor fields and then spend your money wisely.”