DEAR EDITOR: I farm 100ha in Wexford, a traditional mixed tillage and sheep farm. This farm is split with 37ha 16km away from the farmyard. The home farm is the base with most of the grass area and all the sheep housing and lambing sheds here. The outfarm is a tillage farm with 7.22ha of permanent pasture and 6ha of multispecies swards.
Sheep and tillage have always been integrated on our farm since the grazing of sugar beet tops.
Since the end of the sugar industry, we have grown turnips and kale on our farm for winter feeding.
I lamb 350 ewes in mid March with turnout to grass after lambing with no meal feeding until some trough feeding in the autumn-winter period when the remaining lambs are on catch crops and forage crops.
I have invested a lot of time, money and effort in developing my farming system around integrating my tillage and grassland which is one of the main principles of regenerative agriculture.
Investments for grazing of catch crops include:
I am in the ACRES scheme, where I have selected options to suit my farm and farming system.
Some 2ha of arable fallow land is sown with a mix of clovers, forage rape and leafy turnip that I will be allowed to lightly graze after 1 January.
I have 13ha of catch crops sown for ACRES in selected fields that are rotated each year as a follow-on from GLAS.
Some of these fields, after peas, are sown with a forage rape and leafy turnip mix to use up nitrogen that was fixed by the pea crop.
Other fields (24ha) are sown with an eight-way mix as part of the Guinness Regenerative programme that I am a participant in.
After winter barley, I have stubble turnips sown as a full crop. These are fertilised and volunteers sprayed out. I am also trialling a new variety for Germinal seeds.
Catch crops grown for ACRES cannot be grazed until after 1 January. I have a number of fields sown that are not in for ACRES. This is the first year I have not grown turnips for winter feeding as my catch crop area has increased.
Almost all my tillage area is planted with catch crops that are effectively managed and grazed by the sheep enterprise on my farm but, now, due to the new Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) rule all this is deemed unacceptable and breaking the rules.
On my home farm, all the grassland is at the other side of the lane from the tillage fields but if you allow the sheep back on to the grass in the winter, where will you find spring grass? This is a disaster, I have worked hard to make the two systems integrate together for a sustainable future for my family farm.