January 2021 Update from Backboath

As predicted the arrival of sheep at Backboath prompted the fall of snow. Nevertheless, Hugh continues to integrate livestock in his arable rotation at a quieter time of year for the arable enterprises. Below is an update from Backbaoth in January 2021.Sheep grazing at Muiredge field on winter sown cereals.

Grazing Cereals

Following the success of grazing cereals over the winter of 2019/2020, Hugh has decided to graze his cereals again. On the 4th of January 295 lambs arrived and began grazing Hugh’s crops. Moving the lambs on to the next field, Hugh has calculated that so far, he is grazing 203 lambs per hectare per day. Unsure if this is providing suitable nutrition Hugh has analysed a crop of wheat and is awaiting the analysis from the lab. The lambs appear to transition onto the cereals quickly and have not been noticed to be grazing margins or around poles where grass in present, instead concentrating on the crops themselves. Previous analysis has shown that the cereals are very high in protein so it is hoped that they will provide suitable forage for the lambs for several weeks.

Cover Crops

Hugh has trialled several cover crops this year and they appear to have performed well. This field (below) has a mix of phacelia (6%), mustard (20%), oilseed radish (30%), vetch (30%) and fenugreek (14%). The cover is approximately the height of your wellies; however, the recent frosts and snow have caused it to die back, with only the mustard remaining upright. Nevertheless, Hugh plans to graze the cover crops between grazing the cereal crops and has also analysed them to find out their nutritive quality. Hugh has noticed that a neighbouring field has been less effected by the frost due to the earlier growth stage of this crop, this is likely due to a later sowing date.

Wide row spacing

Hugh has also been experimenting using a modified subsoiler to establish his wheat. Hugh has used wide row spacing to establish his rape for over a decade. He has modified this drill by adding two coulters behind each leg, giving an average row spacing of just over 30cm. Alongside the row spacing Hugh has trialled different seed rates and sowing dates to see if this non-inversion establishment method will do the trick, time to wait and see!




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