Overview


GrassCheckGB has developed from a successful project run in Northern Ireland, GrassCheckNI, run by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) since 1999.
 
The initiative is a collaboration between the Centre for Innovation in Livestock (CIEL), The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Rothamsted Research, the three GB meat levy bodies, and industry sponsors.
 

Background

 
Grassland agriculture underpins the ruminant livestock sectors in the United Kingdom. The potential for high levels of grass production and utilisation give British agriculture a key competitive advantage against many other livestock production regions across the globe. However, there is significant scope to improve grassland productivity in the UK from the current estimated production levels of 7.5t DM/ha/yr and 4.7t DM/ha/yr on dairy and beef farms, respectively.


 
Improving grassland management efficiency is a key driver of profitability on beef, sheep and dairy farms across the UK, with each additional 1 tonne DM utilised per hectare worth £334 and £204 per annum to dairy and beef farms, respectively.
 
To assist farmers in making the most of this valuable feedstuff, a group of dairy industry sponsors and the three GB levy bodies AHDB, HCC and QMS are working with CIEL and researchers at AFBI and Rothamsted Research to establish a network of up to 50 grass pilot farms across England, Scotland and Wales.
 
The project aims to assist farmers in improving both grass growth and utilisation by providing information on grass growth, grass quality and weather conditions from 50 locations across GB to assist farmers in making grassland management decisions and increase output from grass.

What is involved?

 
Farmers across the GrassCheckGB monitoring network measure their grazing platform on a weekly basis throughout the grazing season. Grass measurements are fed into an online management platform along with stock numbers, milk/meat sales and details of meal and silage fed.
 
Every fortnight each farm submit grass samples for analysis. This is done on a rotating basis with half the farms submitting samples one week and the other half submitting on the following week.
 
Each farm is equipped with an automatic weather station which records temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, solar radiation and soil moisture. Information is transmitted wirelessly from the monitoring equipment to a IP logger connected into the farm’s broadband router.
 
Pilot farms involved in the process have access to:
 

    • Automatic weather stations recording detailed data every 30 minutes
    • Soil moisture and temperature probes
    • Electronic Plate-meters
    • Animal weighing platforms (beef farms only)
    • AgriNet annual subscription
    • Fortnightly grass analysis
    • Farm specific information on grassland productivity and utilisation, nutrient efficiency, performance of livestock from grass
    • The opportunity to discuss grass management challenges with farmers and researchers on a regular basis
    • Being part of developing a new model to better predict grass growth for farmers
    • Contributing ideas to a farmer focused R&D programme

 
As a Pilot Farm, participants commit to:
 

  • Making weekly assessments of pasture mass across the grazing areas of their farm
  • Fortnightly collection of grass samples for quality analysis
  • Regular milk production data
  • Linking of automated weather stations to farm broadband to facilitate automated data transfer
  • Conducting data transfer for non-automated data streams
  • Providing access to animal performance data held by third parties (e.g. milk production records held by the company a dairy farm supplies milk to)
  • Engagement with GrassCheckGB discussion groups
  • Participation for 3-5 years in the GrassCheckGB project

For general enquiries please telephone on 01904 567716 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.