Organic Grassland Event - a great success

06 June 2011

The Organic Grassland Event was kindly hosted by the Downes family who inspired delegates with their grass growing techniques at their farm in Longnor, Shropshire. The folk legend is true and grass does really grow greener on this farm which is also a result of their dedication and attention to detail in managing the green stuff!

The day started in Longnor village hall with a brew and a catch up, before Phil Stocker and Tim Downes opened the day to a wide field of 50 + guests including farmers, advisors, processors and certification staff.

Our aim was to look at optimizing grass management from a soil, plant and animal persepective. Therefore we had Dr. Liz Stockdale highlighting the importance of ‘Getting to Grips with Soil’, Charlie Morgan on ‘Planning your Ley’ and John Bax on 'Using Forage to Improve Health'. Our own Kate Still then finished the morning by updating the group on her role and objectives within the AssureWel project.

We were fortunate to have Reach22 to come along and film the event with support from West Midlands regional funding. You can access the whole video presentations with slides online here - so well worth a visit to top up your knowledge.

Following presentations in the morning, we were treated to a hearty organic lunch, before moving outside for a guided walk with Tim and his father John leading two separate groups. These walks were interactive sessions with the experts reviewing the current production techniques and providing their expert opinion on potential areas for improvement Some of this footage can be seen here -

Due to the dry weather, Tim had been concerned on forage quantity being conserved. Charlie Morgan got the group to reviewed the current grass growth by giving sward sticks to the group to measure what was avaliable.  He concluded that the farm currently had sufficient grass, as dry matters were higher and intakes were being met by smaller areas. Therefore use of electric fencing was key to ensure the correct size wedge was being fed. John Bax drove home the message about milk from grass, and the volume of grass a cow can eat. Bringing with him his lunchbox contain 1/200 of cow’s daily intake. Liz Stockdale showed the potential of soil, by digging in the centre of a ley and then under the hedge. The Downes had done well in not abusing their soils and this could be seen, but it also showed what the optimum management could lead towards. Photos slideshow below.

We are extremely grateful to the Downes family for being our hosts for the day. From reviewing feedback for the day we can see that delegates had an excellent day that they would recommend to there friends, and came away knowing a little more than before the start of the day. Hopefully a few changed their grazing plans and put their sward sticks to use that evening!

Next year we are looking to host the Organic Grassland Event in the North of England for producers to benefit from this technical help there. If you run a grass based systems and are interested in being involved please contact the Producer Support Team.

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