Helping farmers improve grassland productivity

Improving grassland management efficiency is a key driver of profitability on beef, sheep and dairy farms across the UK, with each additional 1 tonne DM utilised per hectare worth £334 and £204 per annum to dairy and beef farms, respectively.

Grassland agriculture underpins the ruminant livestock sectors in the United Kingdom. The potential for high levels of grass production and utilisation gives British agriculture a key competitive advantage against many other livestock production regions across the globe. However, there is significant scope to improve grassland productivity in the UK from the current estimated production levels of 7.5t DM/ha/yr and 4.7t DM/ha/yr on dairy and beef farms, respectively.

To assist farmers in making the most of this valuable feedstuff, CIEL is working alongside researchers from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Rothamsted Research, supported by a group of dairy industry sponsors and the three GB levy bodies AHDB, HCC and QMS, to deliver GrassCheckGB.

GrassCheckGB aims to assist farmers in improving both grass growth and utilisation by providing weekly updates on grass growth, grass quality and weather conditions from up to 50 locations across Great Britain.

It’s well known that grazed grass is the cheapest feed available to any farmer. As part of a large farm network we can gauge grass availability, livestock performance and feed value of well-managed grassland.

Robert Fleming, Castle Sinniness, GrassCheckGB farmer

Farmers across the GrassCheckGB monitoring network measure their grazing platform on a weekly basis throughout the grazing season. Grass measurements are fed into an online management platform along with stock numbers, milk/meat sales and details of meal and silage fed.
 
Every fortnight each farm submits grass samples for analysis. This is done on a rotating basis with half the farms submitting samples one week and the other half submitting on the following week.
 
Each farm is equipped with an automatic weather station which records temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, solar radiation and soil moisture. Information is transmitted wirelessly from the monitoring equipment to a IP logger connected into the farm’s broadband router.

AFBI uses this data to inform a weekly bulletin which highlights key regional findings, offers grassland management guidance and predictions of future growth patterns.

The GrassCheckGB bulletin is freely available online throughout the growing season at www.grasscheckgb.co.uk and via twitter @Grasscheckgb. It is also published weekly within Farmers Guardian.