Applications are now open to become a pilot farmer for two of AgriSearch’s latest projects: GrassCheck 2017 and Beef from Grass.
Working with research partners AFBI, the projects will recruit 12 dairy farms and 18 beef farms from across Northern Ireland to monitor grass growth and quality through the 2017 growing season to better understand grass growing conditions across the region.
Both projects are focused on assisting farmers to improve grass management following recent industry data highlighting the economic benefits of improved grass utilisation. 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.
Building on the existing GrassCheck activity, which measured grass growth on plots at bothGreenmount and Hillsborough, AgriSearch and AFBI have decided to substantially increase the scope of the GrassCheck project by recruiting 12 pilot dairy farmers.
“This past year, we have witnessed huge variability in grass growth and grazing conditions across the country which has had significant implications on animal performance and feed costs” comments AgriSearch general manager Jason Rankin. “It is important that we both monitor and understand this variation to assist farmers in managing grass throughout the season.”
GrassCheck is AgriSearch’s longest running research programme and the data it collects has proved extremely valuable to the industry. It has also been helpful in some extraordinary circumstances.
In 2002, the results from GrassCheck were used to provide evidence to support the weather aid scheme delivering £4.57m of payments to farmers in Northern Ireland and in 2013 the fodder transport scheme, with £1m subsidy.
In addition, a new “Beef from Grass” project jointly funded by DAERA and AgriSearch will begin in early 2017. One part of this large-scale project will see the recruitment of 18 beef farms from across Northern Ireland to measure grass growth and quality across a range of production systems and land types.
Applications are being sought from interested dairy and beef farmers. These farmers will be required to measure grass each week throughout the grazing season. Regular grass samples will also be taken for analysis.
Each of the dairy pilot farms will also have an automatic weather station installed, which will measure key metrological data such as temperature, rainfall and soil moisture. This information will be published online and in the farming press on a weekly basis.
Application forms and information packs can be downloaded from the AgriSearch website www.agrisearch.org .
If you have any general queries then contact Jason Rankin (AgriSearch) on 028 9268 1613, for dairy specific queries contact Debbie McConnell (AFBI) 028 9268 1530 and for beef specific enquiries contact Francis Lively (AFBI) 028 9268 1552.