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Winter Grazing Cereals, an Alternative Forage Source

23 February 2024

This article is produced as a part of the FAS Crops & Soils Bulletin. Subscribe now to receive the full report in your inbox monthly.

SRUC have been involved with a range of winter cereal sheep grazing trials funded through the EU MIXED project which is investigating approaches for better integration of arable and livestock farms. These experiments have taken place over the last 3 years at both SRUC’s Craibstone campus within the Aberdeenshire Cropping Experimental (ACE) platform, as well as on a number of participating arable farms, primarily in the NE of Scotland. 

How the Trials were Run

The trials at Craibstone used relatively small plots (12m x 15m) to create a replicated trial in the college farm’s winter barley or winter wheat crops using a sophisticated arrangement of electric fencing. When weather allowed in late winter (typically late February or early March), these plots were essentially mob grazed for either zero, 1, 2 or 3 days by which time there was very little ground cover left (see picture lower left).  

The participating farms tended to have spilt fields (grazed or ungrazed) with the grazing being more extensive and taking place either side of Christmas depending on crop growth and weather. To limit the need to move electric fences, these farm experiments were generally grazed from between 2 and 6 weeks depending on availability of forage, the weather and how brave the farmer was feeling.  


Over the 3 years that the experiments took place, as long as you didn’t allow the crop growing points to get nibbled (no grazing beyond mid/late tillering), it always amazed us how far down you could graze the crops without having any clear yield reduction, with very few negative impacts apparent. After a couple of months, it was almost impossible to see any difference in the crop from zero grazed to intensive grazed areas (see picture lower right – same view)There was some evidence to suggest that worm numbers increased, crop disease severity reduced and grain size increased on the grazed areas. So in summary this approach provided an alternative winter forage source, on clean land, with very few negative impacts observed. 

Learn More

Winter Cereals 2
C&S Winter Grazed Cereals

A webinar held in 2023 on the above topic can be viewed here:  

And a link to the UK (SRUC/SAC, SAOS and University of Aberystwyth) input to the bigger EU MIXED project can be viewed here: 


Dr Robin Walker, SRUC Aberdeen 

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