Friday 15 February 2019

Field beans as a fodder crop for sheep in France

In the autumn of 2018 several large fields where we live were planted predominantly with Field beans with a few other plants including fodder radish, mustard and phacelia. This has never happened here before and I was quite excited at the thought that these may be left to flower in the spring which would have been great for all manner of species including my bees. However it seems this is not going to happen.

Yesterday when I was out with my dog I saw that one of the fields was electric fenced and had sheep in it and that the adjacent field was also electric fenced but had been grazed.  

From both an agricultural and environmental perspective I can see the benefits in this. The crop as a green manure provides good winter cover, prevents nutrient leaching, adds nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil and the owner of the sheep has fresh early season fodder for their animals.

I should explain that sheep aren’t pastured where we live as it is more profitable to grow cereal crops and that the farmer that owns these particular sheep also grows cereals here including barley for his winter sheep feed. His sheep are kept for the summer some distance away on land that is unsuitable for cereals and are transported to his farm here for winter where they are housed in a huge barn where they are lambed before being returned in spring to their summer grazing pastures.

Regardless of your views on eating meat this would appear to be an improvement for the animals involved and the land.