AFBI highlights Green Gold potential through maximising returns from grass

Dr Debbie McConnell as well as farmers from the GrassCheck initiative will be on hand to discuss ways to maximise grass utilisation at AFBI's 'Dairy Innovation 2018' Open Day at Hillsborough on June 6th 2018, with support from AgriSearch and CAFRE.
Dr Debbie McConnell as well as farmers from the GrassCheck initiative will be on hand to discuss ways to maximise grass utilisation at AFBI's 'Dairy Innovation 2018' Open Day at Hillsborough on June 6th 2018, with support from AgriSearch and CAFRE.

With many farms carrying low silage stocks following early housing in autumn 2017 and difficult grazing conditions in spring 2018, achieving high output from grazed grass this summer has never been more important.

To help farmers make the most of this resource, maximising grass growth and utilisation this season will be one of the key highlights of the AFBI Dairy Innovation 2018 event being held at Hillsborough, on June 6th this year.

At the event, attendees will have the opportunity to hear the latest research on grazing management to maximise animal performance from grass.

“Our data indicate average grassland productivity of 7.5t DM/ha on Northern Ireland dairy farms, but we really should be achieving at least 10 t DM/ha (25% more) based on our excellent grass growing conditions,” comments AFBI researcher Dr Debbie McConnell.

“Implementing simple research findings such as optimum grazing covers and targeting concentrate supplementation could deliver easy gains in grassland productivity and utilisation,” she continues.

One of the projects being discussed at the event is GrassCheck, an AgriSearch and DAERA funded project which involves monitoring grass growth and quality across 48 Northern Ireland dairy, beef and sheep farms. Last year despite the difficult weather conditions, dairy farms taking part in the GrassCheck project recorded an impressive 11.7t DM/ha on average.

Debbie reports: “Monitoring across Northern Ireland has highlighted the large differences in grass growth between counties at different times of the year. However although the shape of the grass curve is different for different areas, these GrassCheck farms have shown that regardless of location, and across a range of production systems, achieving high levels of grassland productivity is certainly possible.”

Key to achieving high levels of performance is regular soil testing, reseeding and weekly measurement of grass growth to ensure swards are grazed at the correct stage. During 2018, the project is following grassland performance on 20 dairy, 23 beef and five sheep farms.

At the AFBI Dairy Innovation 2018 event attendees will also have the opportunity to visit the Grass Management Focus Area which will cover topics including soil fertility, soil compaction, the latest high yielding AFBI grass varieties, grass measurement, grazing management, zero-grazing, selecting grass varieties and AFBI’s precision grassland platform. AFBI staff, CAFRE advisors and farmers on the GrassCheck initiative will be on hand to discuss grass management one-on-one.

The AFBI Dairy Innovation 2018 Open Day will be at Hillsborough, on the 6th June this year with the theme Profiting from AFBI Research.

For more information on the event and to register, please see or visit https://bit.ly/2KqEKzK.