Extensification of grassland use in the Welsh uplands: sheep performance in years 1-6

Charles Thomas Morgan, Mick Fothergill, D. Arthur Davies

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16 Citations (SciVal)


An experiment was established in 1991 on a 25-year-old perennial ryegrass/bent (Lolium perenne L./Agrostiscapillaris L.)-dominated pasture in Wales to study the effects of reducing nutrient inputs to previously fertilized upland pasture. The effects of the removal of applications of (1) N (denoted by CaPK) (2) N, P and K (Ca) and (3) N, P, K, and Ca (Nil) were compared with a treatment which received applications of all four nutrients (CaPKN) over a 6-year period (1991–96) in a randomized block design replicated three times. The experiment was managed under a continuous variable stocking regime (ewes and lambs until weaning and ewes thereafter) maintaining a sward surface height of 4·0 cm throughout the grazing season. Although individual liveweight gain of the lambs was unaffected by the treatments, there was a significant reduction (P <0·05) in total lamb liveweight gain, ewe stocking rate and length of grazing season as a result of the withdrawal of nutrients. Over the 6 years total lamb liveweight gain was reduced by 17%, 32% and 45% and ewe stocking rate by 21%, 36% and 49% on treatments CaPK, Ca and Nil, respectively, compared with treatment CaPKN. The effect of withdrawing nutrient inputs on ewe stocking rate was progressive and by 1996 the Nil input treatment displayed a 63% reduction compared with the CaPKN treatment and this was also coupled with a 21-day reduction in length of the grazing season. During the post-weaning period, ewes from the Nil input treatment recorded a liveweight loss in 1995 and only a modest liveweight gain in 1996. This coupled with significantly lower body condition scores (P <0·01) of these ewes in the autumn indicated that the Nil input treatment could lead to reductions in reproductive performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-117
Number of pages13
JournalGrass and Forage Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Ewe stocking rate
  • Extensification
  • Lamb liveweight gain
  • Lolium perenne/Agrostis capillaris
  • Nutrient input
  • Upland grassland use


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