12th June 2024

GrassCheck GB celebrates fifth anniversary supporting UK grassland productivity with on-farm event in north Wales

The GrassCheck GB project celebrates its fifth year dedicated to enhancing grassland productivity in England, Wales, and Scotland. The project is a collaborative effort between levy bodies the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), industry organisations, UK Agri-Tech Centre and researchers at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Rothamsted Research. Recognising the need to harness the UK’s potential for substantial grass production, the GrassCheck GB project was launched to address the challenges and opportunities in the grassland management sector. By using the data and information from GrassCheck GB, farmers can unlock the full potential of their grasslands, drive increased yields and quality, improve livestock performance, and ultimately, become more sustainable and competitive within the agricultural landscape.

To mark the fifth anniversary of the project, an on-farm event will be held at Pen y Gelli farm, near Caernarfon, north Wales on Tuesday 25 June where the latest project results and updates will be shared. Hosted by Alwyn Phillips, a participating farmer in the GrassCheck GB project, the event will include a farm walk and offer practical advice on how to capitalise on flock performance from grass.

Katie Evans, Senior Engagement Manager (Beef & Lamb), at AHDB said: “Grassland agriculture stands as the cornerstone of the ruminant livestock sectors in the UK, providing a vital competitive edge in the global livestock production sectors.

“Improving grassland management efficiency is an important factor in driving profitability for beef, sheep, and dairy farms across the UK. Current estimates show production levels of 7.5t DM/ha/yr and 4.7t DM/ha/yr on dairy and beef farms, respectively. Each additional tonne of dry matter (DM) utilised per hectare translates to significant financial gains, amounting to £334 and £204 per annum for dairy and beef farms, respectively.”

To equip farmers with the knowledge and tools to optimise grassland management, the GrassCheck GB project has established a network of 50 grass pilot farms strategically situated across England, Scotland, and Wales. These farms act as hubs for gathering crucial data on grass growth, grass quality, and weather conditions, offering UK farmers invaluable insights to make informed decisions that support both grass growth and utilisation. This data is also an essential part of developing a model that aims to predict grass growth and performance to use as a tool for planning across the season.

Katie said: “A crucial aspect of the project is the creation of a sophisticated grass growth model, supplying regional 7-14 day grass growth forecasts in weekly bulletin updates. This forward-looking tool empowers farmers to make informed decisions on grassland management for the upcoming grazing week, strengthening overall operational efficiency.”

Dr. Heather McCalman from HCC said: “As the GrassCheck GB project embarks on its fifth year, the partners involved remain committed in their dedication to advancing grassland agriculture and help ruminant livestock sectors in England, Wales, and Scotland to realise the potential of their grassland to become more resilient, productive and sustainable.”

Results from last year showed that average grass utilisation across GrassCheck GB farms was 78.5%, up from 77% the previous year, with 12 farms achieving above 90%. These very high figures were achieved by attention to detail and consistently keeping post-grazing residuals near the recommended target of 1,500 kg DM/ha.

However, a number of farms set higher post-grazing residual targets to ensure animal productivity (at the cost of grass productivity). As such, grass utilisation, while universally seen as an important metric for grassland management, must be used against the backdrop of specific farm objectives and strategies.

Lesley Mitchell from QMS said: “The GrassCheck GB project stands as an example of collaborative effort aimed at empowering farmers across England, Wales, and Scotland to enhance their grassland productivity and, consequently, their overall farm profitability. By providing real-time data, sophisticated forecasting tools, and valuable insights into grass growth and quality, this project gives farmers the knowledge and resources necessary to make informed decisions that optimise their grassland management practices.”

HCC’s Dr Heather McCalman added: “Farmers and industry representatives are encouraged to come along to Pen y Gelli farm on 25 June to hear more and gain an understanding of the factors influencing grass growth and quality and how it contributes to efficient livestock production. During the event, which will run between 2-5pm, the progress of the RamCompare project will also be highlighted, and expert speakers will discuss how the red meat industry can benefit by using the project findings on-farm.”

To find out more about GrassCheck GB, read farmer case studies and access the weekly bulletins, visit https://grasscheckgb.co.uk/.

To register for the on-farm event, held at Pen y Gelli, Ffordd Bethel, Caernarfon, Gwynedd, LL55 1UH between 2-5pm on 25 June 2024, individuals must contact HCC on 01970 625050 or info@hybucig.cymru.

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