Although it seems that grazing animals prefer perennial ryegrass, they are actually picky eaters. They prefer polycultures (a fodder crop with multiple types of plants). In addition, it is not only better for the animals, growing multiple types of plants in the field is good for the plants themselves, the soil and the environment (think of insects and small wild animals).
Growing multiple plant species in the same plot at the same time (polycultures) should be the norm for grazing scenarios
Nutritional values of polycultures
The use of nitrogen binders such as Clovers and Lucerne increases the protein content and nutrients in the forage crop. Another tactic for forage is to add different herbs such as Parsley, Salad Burnet, Chicory and Narrow Plantain.
Thanks to the difference in growth patterns, the grazing season is extended with high-quality nutritious feed herbs, a Saladebuffet starts early and ends late in the fall with production.
Creating a multi-species crop grasses, clovers and herbs (polycultures) and growth patterns is good for the plants themselves and the animals. It is also good for the ecosystem, soil life and soil fertility. Research has shown that as we increase pasture diversity, we generally also see an increase in the diversity of insects, small game, (pasture) birds and toads!
More biodiversity with polycultures
In addition to the increases in the biodiversity in the soil is another ecosystem “service” that polycultures provide, it manages the nutrients better. Just as children eat different amounts of food – the same household – plants use different amounts of nutrients from the soil. The possible combination of nutrient absorption qualities in a polyculture allows increased nutrient management throughout the year. This means that less nutrients are transferred from the soil to surrounding ponds, lakes and groundwater.
The valuable properties of polycultures
One of the most valuable properties of polycultures is difficult to measure but clearly visible in practice. Polycultures offer livestock farmers an “insurance policy”. By combining different plant species in a polyculture, the pasture of livestock farmers is better protected against unfavorable conditions. One plant species does well in very wet conditions, the other plant species does well in very dry conditions. Some species are specially bred for insects, fungi and/or to increase soil fertility.
Having a variety of plants in your forage crop gives livestock farmers peace of mind and security of high production. Studies have shown that there is a yield increase of +47% compared to monocultures.
Polycultures help livestock farmers to give their animals a more varied and nutritious diet. The variety of plants in a polyculture lowers the risk of disease. This applies to the soil, the fodder crop and the livestock. The biodiversity of the entire grazing system is increased with polycultures. This has a positive effect on people, animals and the environment.