Alternative upland grazing systems: Impacts on livestock performance and sward characteristics

Mariecia Dawn Fraser, James Edward Vale, M. S. Dhanoa

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14 Citations (SciVal)


Grazing management influences both economic sustainability and ecosystem change within farming systems. As part of an integrated study we progressively added elements to an upland sheep farming system in order to quantify the impacts on livestock performance and sward characteristics of i) introducing cattle, ii) incorporating semi-natural rough grazing (SNRG), iii) altering the cattle:sheep stocking ratio, and iv) replacing the mainstream breed of cattle (Limousin cross) with a rare breed (Belted Galloway). Data were collected for four years from 2005. Mixed grazing with cattle improved the liveweight gains of lambs, particularly post weaning, regardless of the duration of cattle grazing or the cattle:sheep ratio. Calf growth rates were highest on improved pasture, but acceptable weight gains were also recorded for both breed types when grazing the SNRG, with the Limousin cross calves gaining in excess of 1.0 kg d-1. Overall, there was little evidence that altering the grazing system led to increased sward heterogeneity at the field scale under conditions representative of normal agricultural practice. Utilisation of M. caerulea was similar for the traditional and modern breeds of cattle. The results challenge common perceptions regarding the relative value of different elements within upland livestock systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-20
Number of pages12
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Early online date31 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2013


  • sheep
  • cattle
  • breed
  • Molinia caerulea
  • Less favoured areas


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