Farmer-funded research body AgriSearch is the Project Lead for the ‘Multi-species Swards (MSS) for Beef and Sheep’ European Innovation Partnership (EIP) project.  One of seven recently announced EIPs, the project intends to explore the feasibility and practicality of incorporating multi-species swards on farm, building on existing research and addressing knowledge gaps.  The EIP Scheme is jointly funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

 

Sheep grazing a MSS in Co. Antrim

The MSS for Beef and Sheep Operational Group is comprised of six farmers alongside technical leads from AFBI and Queen’s University with AgriSearch leading on project management and knowledge exchange activities. Specific actions will include exploring the establishment and management requirements of MSS as well as looking at the impact of MSS on animal performance, biodiversity and soil health. Establishment on each farm will commence in Spring 2021 with species mixes selected by the farmers for their own specific circumstance.

 EIP Operational Group Member, Paul Turley said:

“There is growing interest in multi-species swards amongst Northern Ireland farmers.  Research from other parts of UK & Ireland has shown that incorporating grass, herbs and legumes together within a sward can provide multiple benefits such as improving soil health, reducing the use of artificial fertilisers and lowering the use of anthelmintics.  However, there is a lack of practical information about how multi-species swards can be established and used successfully in Northern Ireland farming systems.   We hope that by trying out a number of different techniques and uses as a group we will be able to help decision making on other farms across the province.”

 

Paul Turley from Downpatrick is one of the six farmers involved in the project

It is the intention that this project will encourage greater conversation and knowledge exchange on innovative techniques to improve the efficiency and sustainability of beef and sheep production in Northern Ireland and provide evidence on the practical and economic impacts