Nine beef and sheep farms in Scotland have been selected as pilot farms in GrassCheckGB – a new initiative to help all farmers across Great Britain improve grassland productivity and pasture utilisation.
In total, 27 pilot beef and sheep farms - nine each in England, Scotland and Wales -have been selected, along with a further 23 UK dairy farms. The farms represent a good range of geographical areas, soil and climate types and farm systems.
Pilot farmers will be required to measure grass each week throughout the growing season, with regular grass samples taken for quality analysis. The farmers have received an electronic plate meter and training on how to measure grass yield on their farms. They will also have an automatic weather station installed on their farm to record key metrological data such as temperature, rainfall and sunshine hours.
The GrassCheckGB project will then collate the growth and quality of pasture on each of the pilot farms, make predictions of future growth and report this to the industry on a weekly basis.
The project sees the three GB levy bodies: Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and Hybu Cig Cymru Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) partnering with the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL) and researchers at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Rothamsted Research. The project is also supported by industry sponsors Germinal, Waitrose & Partners, Sciantec Analytical and Handley Enterprises Ltd.
The nine GrassCheckGB pilot farmers in Scotland are: Robert Fleming of Castle Sinniness in Glenluce; John Ritchie of Montalt Farm near Perth; Ian Dickson of Scalpsie Farm on the Isle of Bute; Giles Henry of Oakwood Mill in Selkirk; Alisdair and Emma Davidson of Poldean farm near Moffat; Dane Davidson of Brogan Farms near Ellon; J Scott and Partners of Fearn Farm in Tain; Michael Shannon of Thankerton Camp Farm near Biggar; and David Girvan of Corrimony Farm in Glenurquhart.
Alasdair Davidson from Poldean Farm in Moffat commented: "I am really looking forward to participating in the GrassCheckGB project. It will be a great opportunity to move my grazing management to the next level and collect data that will not only help my business but also shared with other farmers."
His enthusiasm for the project was mirrored by fellow pilot GrassCheckGB farmer Giles Henry from Oakwood Mill Farm in Selkirk who commented: “I am excited at being involved in this pilot and look forward to the benefits that our industry can gain from it.’’
Each of the pilot farms involved in the project will receive detailed information on their grassland productivity and utilisation, nutrient efficiency and performance of livestock from grass on their farm. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their grassland performance with grazing management specialists and network with other pilot farmers involved in the project.
Dane Davidson from Brogan Farms near Ellon is also looking forward to the project beginning. He said: “As a business, we are excited to be involved in a project that we hope will improve our ability to manage the farms pasture.”
Dr Heather McCalman, Quality Meat Scotland Knowledge Transfer Specialist, said: “We are delighted with the number and quality of applications received from farmers in Scotland keen to volunteer as pilot farms in this project.
“Recent studies highlight that improving grassland management efficiency is a key driver to increase profitability on beef and sheep farms across the UK. This programme is a fantastic opportunity for farmers throughout Great Britain to check on their own grass growth and compare their figures against the pilot farms.”
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.
CIEL is supporting the purchase of equipment on farms through funds from Innovate UK, the UK’s Innovation Agency.
The GrassCheckNI programme has been running successfully 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.
For more information about the project visit www.CIELivestock.co.uk/grasscheckgb.
Caption: The nine GrassCheckGB pilot farmers in Scotland are (from top left): Robert Fleming of Castle Sinniness in Glenluce: John Ritchie of Montalt Farm near Perth; Ian Dickson of Scalspie Farm on the Isle of Bute; Alisdair and Emma Davidson of Poldean Farm near Moffat; Dane Davidson of Brogan Farms near Ellon; J Scott and Partners of Fearn farm in Tain; David Girvan of Corrimony Farm in Glenurquhart, Giles henry of Oakwood Mill in Selkirk and Michael Shannon of Thankerton Camp Farm near Biggar.