SOIL Association Scotland is inviting farmers to two free, practical events to discuss paddock grazing with New Zealand farmer and expert Murray Rohloff.

These events, at Kierfiold Farm on Orkney and Chapelton Farm, in Kirkcudbrightshire, will look at how to make paddock grazing work on different farms, how to optimise sheep and cattle performance from pasture, and the financial benefits to be gained from improving soil health and grass.

“Pasture is the diesel of pastoral farming, producing the cheapest feed and giving the ‘biggest bang for the buck’," said Mr Rohloff. "However, most farmers need up-skilling in managing pasture to extract the huge profit potential by managing digestibility and planned pasture covers.”

Alison Ritch of Kierfiold Farm has been trying out paddock grazing with her father Karl as part of the QMS Orkney managed grazing project, and said that it was about taking it step by step.

“This is the first year we’re paddock grazing and it’s a whole new process and way of thinking for us,” she said. “We need to get our heads around the measuring, making sure we get stock in and out at the right stage, and knowing what we’ve got ahead by starting with just one 20-acre field.

“We definitely see the potential of what it can bring to us here, so it’s just getting confident in what we’re doing before we can expand.”

It’s still early days at Kierfiold Farm, but Alison is excited about expanding the project further and seeing the cost benefits it brings. “We started paddock grazing to try and reduce costs. It bugs me when I see the grass going to waste in fields. To me, it should all be eaten, because we’re spending the money putting the fertiliser on it. If it’s not being eaten, it’s costing you, and it’s just going to waste.”

James Biggar of Chapelton Farm, Castle Douglas, said he’d been thinking about paddock grazing for a while, but had felt daunted by the change. He’s been pleased with the results so far.

He said: “Last year we started subdividing some existing fields into smaller paddocks to allow us to move stock around. This year we’ve split up a couple more fields and we’ve started a true rotation for the first time.

“We’ve always been a forage-based business, but we see huge potential to increase our stocking numbers by driving that forage element. The cattle and sheep we have on rotation seem to be very content. They always have plenty of good quality grass in front of them, and I can see an improvement in the sward already as a result of the rotational grazing. It’s also very quick and easy to check stock in one small paddock.”

To those still on the fence he said: “Buy some polywire and give it a shot. You’ve got to make some mistakes, feel your way, and understand what your grass growth cycle looks like and how that fits in with the stock in your business. The only way to learn is to give it a crack, but it definitely works.”

Paddock Grazing for Profit will be held on Wednesday, June 26, 10.30am– 4pm, Sandwick Community Hall, Orkney Sandwick, KW16 3JE and Friday, June 28, 10.30am– 4pm, Selkirk Arms, Kirkcudbright, DG6 4JG.

The events are free to farmers and land managers. Booking is required and can be done online or by calling Lyn on 07899791748