An ambitious new programme of activity aimed at helping Scottish livestock farmers grow more liveweight kilogrammes from pasture is being unveiled by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) this month.
The new grazing initiatives kick off with a “Grazing for Growth” conference, which is free to attend, on May 30th at United Auctions, Stirling.
“The aim of this event, which will feature a diverse line-up of expert speakers from around the globe, is to take a fresh look at grazing and animal performance from pasture,” said Michael Blanche, Knowledge Transfer Specialist with QMS.
“It is generally accepted that typical livestock set stocking rates result in only 40% - 60% of the grass we grow being utilised. Leaving a barley field 50% harvested with what remains left to rot in the field would be universally viewed as a waste so there is huge potential to get more from the grass we already grow,” added Mr Blanche.
Among the speakers at the conference will be the dynamic double act of John Bailey, an Irishman working in France who has spent considerable time in New Zealand, and Trevor Cook, one of the most respected consultants in New Zealand.
John Bailey runs a grazing consultancy business called PatureSens (Pasture Sense) and has a huge depth of practical knowledge on grazing and a great ability to inspire farmers to make positive changes to their approach to grazing.
Trevor Cook is one of the most respected consultants in New Zealand and is a former winner of the Landcorp prize for communication. He is a vet by trade but his expertise on nutrition management from grazing is hard to match. He will talk about opportunities to consistently achieve high animal production per hectare from pasture only systems.
Another speaker will be Michael Shannon from Lanarkshire who is achieving tremendous cattle performance from forage-only diets. He has also successfully introduced an innovative grazing system.
Rhys Williams is a Welsh dairy farmer who operates a pasture-based system. He started farming from scratch and successfully grew his farming operation to a half share in 1,600 cows. A big part of that progression was due to him refining his skills as a grazier.
The conference will be rounded off with a visit to view opportunities to improve grazing being trialed at nearby Arnprior Farm, the Forth Monitor Farm run by the McEwan family.
QMS is also establishing five new Grazing Groups which will be located in the South West, Borders, Central, Aberdeenshire and northern Scotland.
“The main objective of these groups is to increase the kilograms of meat produced per hectare through improved utilisation of pasture,” observed Mr Blanche.
“There will be a host farm but all the businesses involved in the groups will have the opportunity to pursue the same objective on their farms. This goal will involve analysis of historical performance and monitoring of weights and grass production over the course of the project.”
A number of grass stations are also being located on farms throughout the country. These stations will measure grass growth, soil temperature and test the quality of the grass on farms in Berwickshire, Ayrshire, Perthshire, Laggan, Easter Ross and Buchan. Grass stations will also be located on Grazing Group host farms.
“These grass stations will provide us with invaluable information about grass growth in Scotland,” said Mr Blanche.
“We want to know how much grass we can grow in Scotland, how soil temperature interacts with growth and how quality interacts with both growth and temperature, all under commercial farming conditions. We also want to look at soil fertility and its relation to all three measurements.” Regular grass station updates will be published on the QMS website, www.qmscotland.co.uk.
Places at the “Grazing for Growth” conference, which is free of charge and includes a light lunch, are offered on a first come first served basis. To request a place please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0131 472 4040.