Dual-Purpose Gamecover – Game and Farm Grazing

With land often in short supply, many farmers are reluctant to commit to crops which solely provide gamecover.  However, there are various dual-purpose gamecover mixtures that can provide excellent cover during the season and be grazed by livestock once the season is over.


Benefits for all 

The benefits of dual purpose game and farm grazing mixtures are wide ranging. The most obvious benefit is that the farmer or landowner is not relinquishing land solely for cover crops. This way, livestock grazing at the end of the pheasant season at least gives the farmer a financial return.

A gamecover that can be grazed can also benefit the relationship between farmer and shooter. Grazed also helps the microbiology of the soil, as good bacteria is being supplied from the animal ‘muck’ – retaining/recycling nutrition (NPK) and making it readily available for the following game cover.

Another huge benefit of dual-purpose cover crops is that smaller shoots, which often struggle to be allowed cover by farmers, are more likely to be given the go-ahead because there is an agricultural value.

Finally, annual brassicas (Kale, Mustard, Radish) which are a vital component of dual purpose crops, not only provide good forage but are usually cheaper to grow than maize or other more traditional gamecovers.


Dual-purpose game and farm grazing from Bright Seeds

At Bright Seeds, we have a several straights and mixtures that are able to act as gamecover that is then fed off.

Examples of straight crops are Utopia (a hybrid), Kale, Fodder Radish, Stubble Turnips, Fodder Beets and Mustard. These can be sown as straights or in mixtures – the advantage of sowing in a mix means that the quality of food is varied.

There are also exclusive mixtures to Bright Seeds, such as Keepers Relief.


Things to watch out for 

Despite game and farm grazing dual-purpose gamecover having multiple benefits, there are several things to watch out for. These are –

  • Club Root – all game cover/grazing crops are brassica-based so care must be taken with crop rotation to avoid club root and weed build-up.
  • Soil Compaction – care must be taken not to over-graze and damage soils. Sheep are often better than cattle for this.
  • ‘Lay Wet’ – brassicas are green all season so can become quite damp. This means that birds will not want to shelter underneath as they want dry cover. Therefore, it is important to plant the crops on wider row spacings so that birds can move get a canopy.
  • Grazing off Time – this applies to something like our Brassica Fodder Crop (AB13). The payment requirement for this scheme states that grazing can commence from 15th October and that the stubble must be returned to farm rotation by 15th February. If there are shoots up until 1st February – this may not leave enough time to graze off.


Other dual-purpose game cover

It is important to note that Game and Farm Grazing is not the only ‘dual-purpose’ gamecover that is available, and decisions should be made on what is needed from the gamecover crop.

There are a wide variety of stewardship mixtures that are also dual-purpose. Wildbird Mixtures (Link here to other blog) can be planted and provide excellent gamecover, whilst at the same time providing seed and other food sources for farmland birds.

Another form of stewardship mixtures are those that boost the availability of natural food sources for nectar feeding insects like bumble bees and butterflies, whilst again providing cover for gamebirds. Mixes such as our Bright Seeds ‘Nectar Flower Mixture’ are perfect for serving this purpose.

A general advantage of planting stewardship mixtures is that the farmer or landowner can receive payments from the government of up to £640 per hectare – creating another opportunity for normally more cautious farmers to allow gamecover to be planted.

A final dual-purpose gamecover variation is green manure/catch crop. Something like Fodder Radish or Mustard can be planted after the harvest in July/August and establish quickly. It can then soak up the nutrients, (‘catching’) that may otherwise run-off with water. These crops can then be ploughed back into the field, acting as ‘green manure’ for the following year’s maize.


Everybody’s gaining… 

As mentioned, the key to a successful dual-purpose gamecover crop is that all parties are getting something out of it. Whether the farmer/landowner, gamekeeper, grazier or the actual livestock itself: everybody gains. So long as sound crop rotation is adhered to, crops are spaced adequately and soil quality is monitored, dual purpose gamecover offers an array of benefits.