Diverse Swards as part of the answer to the climate emergency

Grazing Systems and Strategies +

Holistic grazing and mob grazing systems present huge opportunities

  • Grazing strategies and livestock management, such as mob grazing, have been seen to increase sward diversity and increase soil organic matter. This was discussed and explained by Rob Havard last year at Swards for the Future. To read more about Rob’s grazing system, please visit the Agricology website.
  • Mob grazing plays a role in the management and creation of habitat mosaics and in controlling scrub encroachment onto flower rich grassland – Making Mosaics, Scrub Management, Group Discussion For more information on what mob grazing is and how these practices are carried out please follow this link to The Soil Association featuring Nuffield Scholar and Livestock farmer, Tom Chapman.
  • ReGenAg Chat Ep. 7 with Rich Thomas on Can Sheep be Regenerative? Herefordshire Meadows member Rich thomas is starting to bring regenerative approaches to the farm and is currently trialling the best approaches when grazing sheep and cattle together. This podcast explores his experience of regenerative agriculture whilst working with herbal and diverse swords.
  • Small scale farms and grazing systems can also be managed using a holistic grazing system. It is important to consider the effect of grazing pressures and rest periods on plant leaf and root production.
    • Our 2019 group discussion is summarised in an Information and Resources leaflet available which summarises the event.
    • The Grazing Animals Project leaflets have been updated and are now hosted on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust website and are a really useful resource on all aspects of livestock keeping, conservation grazing and more. This resource is particularly useful for those who have smaller scale farms.

These holistic grazing management approaches are hugely important as they help maintain soil health and structure. For more information on how to achieve, improve and maintain soils, visit our Healthy Soils page.

Plant and grazing management strategies have critical roles in keeping soils healthy. Increasing the diversity of pastures and meadows will not necessarily increase organic matter levels in soils without appropriate livestock management.  The diagram here shows the potential that planned grazing strategies bring, highlighting the importance of rest periods. Longer rest periods are particularly important as larger plants, with a larger area for photosynthesis are able to increase soil organic matter due to increased root mass.

If you are new to regenerative agricultural principles then a good way to start is with a spade and to read Gabe Brown’s Dirt to Soil. To find out more about Gabe Brown and the growing soil health movement, visit his page on the Soil Health Academy. Our Healthy Soils page also offers addition information on the essential role of soils.

But if you want to explore more then look at local bioagroecolgist, Ben Taylor – Davies’ library

Herbal Leys +

Herbal leys play an important role increasing sward diversity in arable rotations and temporary leys.  If you have permanent pasture or meadows with potential to be restored to native wildflower swards this is the preferred option whilst creating herbal leys elsewhere on the farm. Herbal leys with their commercial cultivars of native plants such as yarrow, birds foot trefoil, red clover etc. are also attractive to pollinators but are not a substitute for a wildflower meadow.

Herbal Leys can bring a diverse range of benefits to a farming system. This includes; improved drought tolerance, nitrogen (N) fixation, improved animal health acquired from forage legumes and herbal leys containing species higher in micronutrients. Therefore, there is a strong relationship and correlation between herbal leys and healthy soils and their resilience.

For more information on herbal leys visit:

  • Introduction to Herbal Leys Part 1: Establishment and Management. If you missed this virtual field day webinar this summer with Agricology and want to find out more on all the joys, benefits and challenges of establishing herbal leys, follow the link tagged above.
  • Part 2 of this series is also available at Herbal Leys Virtual Field Day Part 2. Scroll down the page to find part two of this webinar series covering soil health, grazing strategies and ensiling.

  • Herbal leys, permanent pastures and meadows; opportunities for reducing feed costs in a conservation focussed business model with Jonty Brunyee in 2018 looked at species rich meadows which had been created and enhanced over the past 8 years from arable land and species poor grassland. Jonty’s regenerative journey can also be followed at FarmED

Trees and Flower rich grassland +