Herbal leys are being utilised more on farm as they may offer many benefits to livestock and the structure of the soil. Many herbs have deep roots and help to aerate the soil. Herbs also provide minerals which help increase liveweight gain and milk production. They also have the ability to build soil fertility, withstand drought and promote biodiversity. Current trials suggest adding legumes and herbs can benefit total dry matter per acre.
Using chicory which is a highly palatable perennial herb along with the leafy perennial herb plantain will perform in drought conditions due to their deep tap root as well as breaking up the soil structure. Birdsfoot trefoil contains tannins which has been shown to reduce methane production. Sheeps Burnet and Sheeps Parsley help raise mineral and trace elements. The nitrogen fixing ability of legumes reduce the reliance on artificial fertiliser as well as increasing forage protein content for milk production or liveweight gain.
Incorporating these species into Topgrass All Graze brings a range of benefits as the more variety in the sward supports biodiversity along with productivity and carbon capture.
Taking the approach of ‘working from the soil up’ means that there is an understanding of the soil type whilst measuring the nutrient content and structure. Assessing soil carbon where organic matter, organic carbon and total carbon are just a few parameters that can be analysed will all lead to more environmentally friendly farming whilst maintaining productivity.
It is important to remember that if herbal leys are being sown to meet the requirements of the GS4 environmental scheme that a specific Legume and herb mix or Herbal meadow mix is selected to ensure compliance of the relevant scheme.
Legume and herb rich mixes provide productive grazing for livestock along with providing a habitat and a food source for invertebrates and pollinators supporting biodiversity.