5th September 2018

Farmers Sought for Pilot Grassland Improvement Programme

Farmers in Scotland, and throughout Great Britain, are being sought to take part in GrassCheckGB, a pilot programme set to help farmers improve their grassland management.

A recent study carried out by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) highlighted the importance of improving grassland management efficiency as a key driver of profitability on beef and sheep farms across the UK.

The research showed that improving pasture utilisation by one tonne per hectare is worth an additional profit of £204 per hectare per year to a beef farm.

GrassCheckGB aims to improve grassland productivity and pasture utilisation on beef and sheep farms through a new grassland performance monitoring network.

This will collate data from across GB to enable better predictions of grass growth using weather data combined with grass growth and quality data from a wide range of beef and sheep farms 

Dr Heather McCalman, Quality Meat Scotland Knowledge Transfer Specialist, said: “This is a great opportunity for farmers to get involved in a new GB-wide initiative which could make a real difference to managing grass supply to meet livestock demand in the future.” Dr McCalman said the feedback received by pilot farmers involved will help inform their grazing management decisions and improve efficiency to benefit their bottom lines. The outputs of the project will not only help those farmers directly involved to improve their   grassland management, she said, it will also help hundreds of other farmers around the country.

“We are delighted to be working with our sister organisations elsewhere in the UK on this project. The launch is taking place as the extent of the problems associated with the prolonged period of dry weather become increasingly apparent. The lessons learned during this project should help to mitigate the impact of extreme weather 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 project will see three levy bodies - the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) - partnering with the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL) and researchers at AFBI and Rothamsted Research.

CIEL is supporting the purchase of equipment on farms through funds 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.

The project is being part-funded from the £2 million fund of AHDB red meat levies ring-fenced for collaborative projects which is managed by the three GB meat levy bodies – AHDB, HCC and QMS.

The ring-fenced fund is an interim arrangement while a long-term solution is sought on the issue of levies being collected at point of slaughter in England, for animals which have been reared in Scotland or Wales.

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.”

Participant farmers will be required to measure grass each week throughout the grazing season, with regular grass samples taken for quality analysis. Each pilot farm will receive an electronic plate meter and software as well as an automatic weather station to record 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 to enable predictions of future pasture growth and quality. They will have the opportunity to discuss their grassland performance with pasture management specialists and network with other pilot farmers directly involved in the project.

Up to 25 beef and/or sheep farms across GB are needed to kick-start the project. Applications to participate in GrassCheckGB are now being sought. Application forms and information packs can be downloaded from www.CIELivestock.co.uk For general queries contact CIEL, telephone 01904 567716 or email enquiries@cielivestock.co.uk .

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