Added feed value, improved lamb performance and lower running costs are driving the popularity of multi-species leys.
Lambs reared on these carefully formulated mixtures of grass, legume and herb species have been shown to reach finishing weights significantly earlier than those grazing traditional pastures with white clover.
They were also found to carry a lower worm burden and had lower requirement for anthelmintic treatments.
Sown in spring or autumn, multi-species mixtures generally include three or more grass species, a mix of protein-rich legumes that fix nitrogen and deep-rooted herbs that provide drought tolerance and the potential to boost the crop’s mineral content.
Yields from these good multi-species mixtures are generally higher than the sum of the individual components. This is known as the diversity effect.
Trials have shown that the dry matter yield of some multi-species mixtures receiving 90kg N/ha can be similar to, and in some cases better than, perennial ryegrass swards receiving 250kg N/ha. They also offer the potential to dispense with applied nitrogen, making them an option for organic growers.
Limagrain offers scientifically formulated multi-species mixtures in its Sinclair McGill range.
Lambtastic includes high performing ryegrass cultivars combined with Timothy to ensure it gets off to a sprint start in spring and remains productive well into autumn. Forage chicory and plantain combined with the attributes of a proven white clover blend are all known to promote lamb performance.
CastleHerb combines 40% intermediate and late perennial ryegrasses species, with 30% each of legumes and herbs. Matrix-enhanced ryegrass is included. This provides a crop with an extended grazing season and very rapid regrowth. CastleHerb can, in some cases, qualify for grant aid under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.
These multi-species mixtures also make a significant contribution to the environment by increasing invertebrate numbers, including earthworm populations, and encouraging wildlife.