Maximising feed from grass is key to both profitability and reducing carbon outputs. In order to achieve this soil pH and nutrition management must be a priority for grassland farmers.
Recent studies by AFBI have shown that on average, NI farmers are achieving only 7.5t/DM/Ha grass forage. Under the right growing and management conditions, farmers participating in their GrassCheck programme had an average utilisation of 11.7 t/DM/Ha. A new initiative, GrassCheckGB has been set up to monitor grass growth and utilisation on 50 locations across Scotland, England and Wales for a 3-5 year period. The project states "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."
Assuming grassland production is maximised through efficient nutrient use, improvements in grazing management will increase milk production from grass. Grazing systems such as strip or paddock grazing may require increased management or financial investment, but are financially worth considering. Measuring grass covers allows farmers to adapt their grazing management in response to climatic conditions which might increase or reduce growth rates such as the wet summer of 2017 or the extreme heat experienced in 2018.
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