Ian Wilkinson from Cotswold Seeds discusses how they have integrated sheep into their farming system to improve their poor quality Cotswold Brash soil and how grazing Herbal Leys and diverse swards has helped them in difficult situations and provided health benefits for the sheep.
Changing climates will have adverse effects on forage availability throughout the year. However, there are already a variety of solutions within the industry to help livestock farmers cope with this deficit. Among these, combining grass leys and legume crops into arable rotations is a useful tool for providing additional grazing areas when forage is scarce during climate extremes. These systems also have beneficial effects on soil fertility by reducing the proportion of bare ground over winter, while providing the system with additional organic matter from the plants and animal manure.
Silvo-pastoral agroforestry is another useful mechanism for providing additional forage, in the form of browsing. Developing pastures that incorporate trees is not only beneficial by increasing food availability but also through provision of shade and shelter. This not only benefits the livestock but also the plants underneath.
Within all systems diversity is an essential element for effectively coping with changing climates. Higher levels of diversity not only provide resilience during periods of stress but also deliver a variety of natural health benefits to the livestock. In particularly, selecting species in relation to the local conditions is a useful way of delivering these beneficial effects and for ensuring forage is available throughout the year.
The discussion that followed the presentations brought out the following points: