Aim: To investigate the incorporation of multi-species swards (MSS) on ruminant grazing systems.

At present, there is significant evidence to suggest that increasing the diversity of plant species can counteract some of the challenges faced by beef and sheep production systems in Northern Ireland. There are many suggested benefits to incorporating grass, legume and herb species in grazing platforms, such as their deep rooting properties and improved soil health which reduces the requirement for fertiliser input. Additionally, there are reports of MSS holding anthelmintic properties. However, there is a considerable lack of information surrounding the use of MSS on farms in Northern Ireland. This project aims to bring together a group of individuals with complementary knowledge and experience in order to investigate the feasibility and practicality of including MSS on commercial beef and sheep farms. This will in turn significantly increase the knowledge of MSS use and management strategies, specific to Northern Ireland, and its impact on animal performance.

This project will enable an honest review of the positive and negative aspects to incorporating MSS, which will be distributed to the wider sector to provide information which may aid decision making on farm. Additionally, it will allow for the design of practical management techniques based on a range of conditions across the group members. It is intended that this project will encourage conversation and knowledge exchange on new and innovative techniques to improve the efficiency and sustainability of beef and sheep production in Northern Ireland while boasting positive economic impacts.

Project objectives:

  • To investigate the feasibility and practicality of incorporating MSS on NI commercial beef and sheep farms
  • To significantly increase the knowledge of MSS impact on:
    • Establishment and management
    • Animal health and performance
    • Biodiversity
    • Soil carbon
  • To explore potential added value routes to market
  • Dissemination project activity and results

 Read the 'Review of Multi-Species Swards for Beef and Sheep' here.




Ongoing research carried out by others, as well as ourselves and AFBI on MSS has been summarised in a presentation by Dr David Patterson. You can watch it

MSS "Meet the Farmer" series, episode 1 featuring Group Member Dale Orr - watch it

This project, as part of the European Innovation Partnership is co-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

See here for more information on the EAFRD.