In Sardinia (Italy), a farmer has chosen to reduce the cost of milk production by increasing the amount of fresh grass and hay produced on-farm. In his 77-hectar farm, a limit to cultivation is represented by stony soils. This is why he is promoting the use of forage crops that do not require an annual soil tillage, i.e. temporary grasslands that last at least 2 years. He cultivates a variety of temporary grasslands, both under rainfed conditions and irrigation, based on annual self-reseeding clovers, medics, other legumes in pure stands and in mixture with cereals or grasses. In detail, he cultivates a mix of sulla and common chicory; a mixture of annual ryegrass, common chicory and bur medic; sulla in pure stand; Ladino clover in pure stand; Lucerne. A corn field is seeded every year to produce grain. Sheep are moved 2-3 times a day to graze in different plots.
The farmers gained several benefits from the adoption of this innovative forage chain:
- The forage production is constant along the year;
- Higher forage production per hectare;
- A good amount of crude protein is available in grasslands in all seasons;
- Sheep can graze several species and are healthier;
- Corn benefit from residual nitrogen in the soil when this crop follows legumes and their mixtures;
- Lower amount of N-fertilizers;
- Forage self-sufficiency has been achieved.
Nonetheless, an accurate integration of grasses to sheep diet is needed during spring, when an excess of crude protein is available in pastures. Moreover, additional work is required to manage daily animal transfers. Irrigation is needed to boost forage production in summer and to favour mixtures establishment in early sowings at the end of summer. The coaching of advisors is recommended to adopt this forage system.
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