Multi-species Swards: Grow more forage with less fertiliser

Multi-species Swards: Grow more forage with less fertiliser

Multi-species swards are a sustainable source of high-quality forage.

Multi-species swards are a sustainable source of high-quality forage. As well as producing high yields of quality forage, sowing multi-species can lead to a significantly reduced N fertiliser requirement as well as increased animal performance and health.

A multi-species sward is a mixture of three or more species whose growth characteristics complement each other resulting in improved productivity compared to when each species is grown.

Typically, the species used come from three plant groups, i.e., grasses, legumes, and herbs, with each species bringing different benefits to the sward.

“The light type of soil we have is always a struggle during the summer months with as little as a week without rain putting the farm under pressure. Finding a forage that would withstand these conditions and fit into our intensive farming system proved difficult. After speaking to Nigel Condell, we selected the multi-species 6 Species Herbal Lay mixture as the best fit for my situation.

The multi-species sward proved to be a massive hit with my herd! So much so that I am continuing to work with Nigel on a reseeding plan that will incorporate the 6 Species Herbal Lay mixture into the rest of the farm over time.”

Tom, Patrick, and Philip Murphy, Co. Kilkenny.


Nitrogen Fertiliser for Multi-Species Swards

Multi-species swards produce large quantities of highly digestible forage rich in minerals and high in protein for grazing livestock. Apart from a couple of small fertiliser applications in spring, multi-species swards are almost totally N self-sufficient.

Many studies have reported multi-species swards receiving little or no nitrogen achieving similar yields to grass swards receiving ~300kg N/ha per year.

Achieving such an outcome on-farm will depend on maintaining a decent proportion (20-30%) of legumes in the sward. Regular grazing will help to encourage and maintain clover in the sward.


Having a mixture of grass and multi-species swards on the grazing platform will ensure a steady supply of the highest quality forage through spring, summer, and autumn, buffering against drought and reducing the cost of forage production.