Smart Farming

Smart Farming: Multispecies Swards

Multispecies swards are grass swards that contain a range of plant species including plantain, timothy, chicory, and clover. Multispecies swards have a higher protein and energy content than standard grass swards which can improve animal health and performance, while they have the potential to reduce nitrogen fertiliser requirements and increase carbon sequestration. 


  • Multi-species swards can produce similar yields to standard swards at lower rates of N fertiliser.
  • White and red clover fix Nitrogen from the atmosphere. This means they absorb nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it into protein providing protein-rich grass without the need for artificial fertilisers. 
  • Multispecies offer a more balanced diet, improve animal performance and there is some evidence of parasite prevention in livestock. 
  • Deeper root depths mean multispecies have a higher rate of carbon sequestration, higher drought resistance and increased aeration and drainage improving overall soil fertility.
  • More species allows opportunities for biodiversity, attracting more insects and pollinators.

How to Establish Multispecies

  • Similar to grassland reseeding, best conditions for multispecies is a warm, moist seedbed (~10°C) between April and August.   
  • Having optimal soil fertility is important for multispecies swards.
  • Choose grazing paddocks over silage fields.
  • Lime should be applied, if necessary, as per a normal reseed. Aim for a pH of 6.2 – 6.5.
  • Multispecies mixtures contain broadleaf species therefore post-emergence herbicides should not be applied.
  • After sowing allow eight weeks before grazing.
  • Persistence of some species can be an issue in some swards. Herbs like chicory and plantain can last 3 to 4 years after which they will need to be over sown. 

Smart Farming is a voluntary resource efficiency programme, run by the Irish Farmers’ Association in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency. 

For more information on the Smart Farming programme visit . 

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