Team and Leader C S Mayne and JD Patterson

Organisations Involved Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland and Greenmount College of Agriculture

Background and Summary

With current reductions in milk price, increased reliance on grazed grass offers one of the few opportunities to reduce milk production costs. However, successful utilization of grass requires frequent decision making in order to accommodate fluctuation in the pattern of grass growth both between and within years, in addition to changes in nutrient demands by the cow/herd through the season. 

The objectives of this proposal are to provide comprehensive grass growth and quality data to cover the range of dairying conditions across Northern Ireland. This will involve 4 sites: Two commercial dairy farms, one in the west of the province and one in the east plus the Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland and Greenmount College. The data will be used to develop improved grass measurement and budgeting techniques for dairy cattle, thus aiding decision making on the farm. The use of commercial ?monitor? farms should also provide an indication of the range in herbage intake actually achieved on dairy farms in Northern Ireland.


1. Commerce on-farm monitoring plus grass measure at ARINI and Greenmount Agricultural College.

2. Publish grass growth rates, detailed of grass quality and beef grazing management guidelines every three weeks in the local farming press.

3. Complete analysis of on- farm data and determine grass growth, utilization and milk production from grazed forage on the two monitor farms.

4. Repeat as above for 1999 and 2000 grazing seasons.

5. Collate data from three years of grazing records and publish overall summary.


By aiding decision making on grassland management confidence in and utilization of grazed grass will be increased, facilitating lower cost milk production.

Measurement of grass intake actually on farms and development of improved guidelines on need for supplementation at pasture.

Rapid feedback of information to farmers and high profile for research undertaken with results published at 3 week intervals though the season.

Project News Update

Results of three years of intensive monitoring of grass growth across Northern Ireland have indicated major variation in the pattern of grass growth between years, with between year variations of up to 11% in total grass yield. This highlights one of the key advantages of having a grass growth monitoring system within Northern Ireland, to provide farmers with an early warning system highlighting either very good or poor grass growing seasons (as in 2002). On-farm monitoring of grass utilisation under grazing on two commercial farms indicated utilised grass yields of 9.8 and 10.5 t DM/ha suggesting that, even in difficult grazing seasons, grazed grass remains the most competitive forage on Northern Ireland dairy farms.

For further information check the Grass Check Website