Both tillage and sheep farmers can see benefits from growing catch crops under the GLAS Scheme, according to Agricultural Consultant, Simon Byrne.
Under the GLAS scheme, farmers are required to grow at least two different species of catch crops to be eligible for the €155/ha payment.
And according to the Bunclody-based Agricultural Consultant, the crops grown under GLAS can provide a valuable source of winter feed for sheep.
Byrne, who operates a tillage and sheep farm alongside his consultancy business explained the benefits of growing catch crops to some 40 farmers at a recent ICSA organised forage crop walk in Co. Wicklow.
He said that it is possible for tillage and sheep farmers to come together in a mutual relationship, which will allow tillage farmers to receive the payments and the soil enhancing benefits of catch crops, while sheep farmers will be provided with a relatively cheap source of feed over the winter months.
However, he said farmers who plan on grazing catch crops need to ensure that they are growing the correct varieties and a mix consisting of forage rape and leafy turnip generally works best.
If you are renting a run of stubble of another farmer, you want to make sure you are growing the right crop.
He also added that catch crops are relatively cheap to grow, costing the the region of €90-100/t of Dry Matter, which is considerably cheaper than a tonne of Dry Matter barley at a cost of €170/t.
Video: Catch crops suit mixed sheep and tillage farms
Tillage farmers should’t underestimate catch crops
Germinal Ireland’s Dr Mary McEvoy also spoke at the farm walk, where she highlighted the benefits catch crops can provide when grown on tillage farms.
McEvoy said tillage farmers shouldn’t underestimate the benefits catch crops can have on the soil on their farms.
The ability to graze these crops is a big benefit, she said, but they also help with conditioning the soil.
The root systems on different crops are obviously going to do different things.
“Catch crops aid air and water movement through the soil and this will have huge benefits for the subsequent crops.
Tillage radish would be another very popular option as it has nearly half an inch of a tap root, while Germinal’s Soil Booster Graze mix, which contains forage rape and leafy turnip, has also been popular, she said.
Managing almost 5,000 store lambs on forage crops
Brothers Mervyn and George Sunderland operate a mixed farm on the outskirts of Redcross, Co. Wicklow and they grow 60-70 acres of forage crops each year.
Along with beef and tillage enterprises, the Sunderlands have a flock of ewes and finish close on 5,000 store lambs on an annual basis – last year the brothers finished 4,800 lambs.
Approximately 1,200-1,400 of these lambs come from their own ewe flock, while the remainder are bought in as stores, for further feeding, from various marts around the country.
The brothers have grown forage crops for a number of years and have found them to be very beneficial in lamb diets and from a tillage management point of view.Also Read: See how the Sunderlands use forage crops on their farm here