Making the most of grazed grass with high yielding cows will be a key topic of discussion at the upcoming AFBI-AgriSearch-CAFRE farm walk held on 26th April at 10.45am the farm of Harold Johnston near Ahoghill, County Antrim.

Harold, who farms in partnership with sons Jack and Mark, runs a herd of 270 autumn-winter calving Holstein-Friesian cows averaging 9,000 litres/cow/year. The farm is one of 20 dairy farms participating in the GrassCheck project which involves weekly recording of grass growth across the grazing platform.

Harold has been measuring grass growth on his farm for the last five years and is using the data to boost both grass production and cow performance from forage. Last year the farm grew a 12.6t DM/ha across the grazing platform.

The farm currently has a rolling milk from forage of 2,500 litres/cow/year which Harold aims to increase to 3,000 litres/cow/year through higher performance from the grazing platform. “In the past four years we have focused heavily on our soils on both the grazing and silage areas to boost our grass yields” comments Harold.

Aidan Cushnahan (CAFRE), GrassCheck Pilot Farmer Harold Johnston and Debbie McConnell (AFBI) discussing the upcoming GrassCheck farm walk at Harold’s farm.

“We have invested heavily in lime and how have 89.5% of the farm with soils above pH 6 and a similar proportion at Index 2 or above for P and K” he continues. The farm also uses grass measurement data to earmark underperforming grazing fields for reseeding.

Throughout the grazing season the herd is managed in one group and fed to yield in parlour with Harold regularly reviewing maintenance-plus value to balance good cow performance and grazing efficiency. When the farm initially moved to grazing during the summer months, immediate reductions in concentrate use per day where achieved without any negative impact on herd performance.

“Measuring and budgeting grass each week has been essential in managing our grazing each season. It has given us more confidence in allocating grass for cow requirement and has help avoid unnecessary buffer feeding, freeing up time for other tasks” Harold adds.

At the farm walk event there will be an opportunity to hear updates on the GrassCheck programme for 2019, along with the latest research results from a number of trials.

The farm walk will be held on: Friday 26th April 2019 at 10:45 am at 5 Clooney Road, Ahoghill, County Antrim, BT42 2RA.

Another farm walk will also be held on the farm of Joe Cush on Thursday 25th April 2019 at 10:45 am at 92 Lurganeden Road, Pomeroy, Tyrone, BT70 2TL.

In the interests of biosecurity those attending are asked to wear clean clothing not previously worn while in direct contact with their own animals. Outdoor work boots should not be worn. Protective overalls and footwear will be provided. For more information on the event please visit