Farmers asked to participate in new pasture project

Hannah Downey

Efficient grassland management is one of the most important factors determining the profitability of beef and sheep farms across the UK. In a recent study conducted by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), it was shown that improving pasture usage by one tonne per hectare is worth an additional £204 profit per hectare per year to a beef farm.

The new project ‘GrassCheckGB’ aims to improve grassland productivity and pasture utilisation on beef and sheep farms through a new grassland performance monitoring network. This will benchmark current and potential performance, support new grassland research and encourage uptake of innovative grassland management practices such as grazing management and nutrient budgeting.

Dr Liz Genever, AHDB Beef & Lamb Senior Scientist, said: “As the extent of the problems associated with the prolonged dry weather become increasingly apparent, a new opportunity is on the horizon to help minimise the impact of similar occurrences in the future. The programme has been successfully implemented in Northern Ireland since 1999 and most recently the data has been used to offer evidence to the NI government on the magnitude of the impact of the drought and inform discussions on how much support the industry needs.”
The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) will partner with the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL) and researchers at AFBI and Rothamsted Research to initiate the project.
CIEL is supporting the purchase of farm equipment through funds made available from Innovate UK, the UK’s Innovation Agency. The GrassCheckGB project will monitor the growth and quality of pasture, make predictions of future growth and report this to the industry on a weekly basis.
Lyndsay Chapman, CEO of CIEL, said: “It’s great to see this collaboration across the three industry bodies focused on supporting the beef and lamb sector combined with research expertise from AFBI and Rothamsted Research – all recognise the importance of efficient pasture management for profitable and efficient ruminant livestock farming.”
Up to 25 beef or sheep farms have been asked to step forward if they are willing to participate in ‘GrassCheckGB’, to kickstart the project. Participant farmers will be required to measure grass each week throughout the grazing season, with regular grass samples collected for analysis. Each of the farms will have an automatic weather station installed, which will measure key metrological data such as temperature, rainfall and sunshine hours.
Farmers involved in the project will receive detailed information on grassland productivity and utilisation, nutrient efficiency and performance of livestock from grass on their farm together with predictions of future pasture growth and quality. They’ll also have the opportunity to discuss their grassland performance with pasture management experts and other farmers directly involved in the project.

Application forms and information packs can be downloaded here.

For general queries contact CIEL, telephone 01904 567716 or email