Originally established in 1999, the GrassCheck project aims to provide high quality, up-to-date grass information to assist farmers with grassland management decisions and support improvements in grass utilisation on Northern Ireland (N.I.) livestock farms.
Operated by AgriSearch and AFBI, the project monitors weekly grass growth and quality and provides seven and 14 day grass growth rate forecasts to support farmers in managing pasture surpluses and deficits throughout the growing season.
Regular grass growth monitoring has been identified as a key mechanism to facilitate improvements in grass utilisation, which in turn carries a financial benefit for farmers. Work carried out by AFBI has demonstrated that improving grassland utilisation by one tonne per hectare on a dairy farm is worth an additional profit of £441/ha/year and on a beef farm £204/ha/year.
Historically GrassCheck has been based on grass plot data. This core data collection will be retained in 2017 however this year, the project is being expanded to bring in grass growth and quality data from 35 commercial dairy, beef and sheep farms across N.I.
Each of the farmer co-researchers have been equipped with the latest GPS rising plate-meters to measure grass covers. On-farm grass growth and quality will be measured on a weekly and fortnightly basis, respectively.
In addition, 24 weather stations are being deployed on these pilot farms to record a wide range of meteorological data from across N.I. This cutting-edge technology is being used to provide farmers with up-to-date information of grass growing conditions and grass quality in their locality to help them make the most of this valuable resource.
GrassCheck is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), the College of Agricuture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) and the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL).