GrassCheckGB is the new initiative aiming to help all farmers across Great Britain improve grassland productivity and pasture utilisation.

The network of beef, sheep and dairy farms will provide important data to inform GrassCheckGB which will monitor the growth and quality of pasture and make predictions of future growth. Findings will be published weekly enabling farmers to plan ahead and make informed decisions on grassland management.

Each of the 50 farms will additionally receive specific information on their grassland productivity and utilisation, nutrient efficiency and performance of livestock from grass on their farm. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their grassland performance with grazing management specialists and network with other pilot farmers involved in the initiative.

GrassCheckGB is a collaboration between the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL), Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Rothamsted Research, the three GB meat levy bodies – Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), and industry sponsors Germinal, Waitrose & Partners, Sciantec Analytical and Handley Enterprises Ltd.

“The selected farms form an effective monitoring network representing a range of geographical areas, soil types, climate types and farm systems,” explains Nikki Dalby, project lead for CIEL.

“We are in the process of organising installation and testing of monitoring equipment across the network. This will enable us to capture key metrological data such as temperature, rainfall and sunshine hours, and each farmer will measure grass every week through the grazing season.

“Benchmarking current and potential grassland performance will support novel research and we hope will encourage uptake of innovative grassland management practices such as pasture (grazing) management and nutrient budgeting.”
CIEL is supporting the purchase of equipment on farms through funds from Innovate UK, the UK’s Innovation Agency.

Farmer set-up meetings are underway from this week in Devon, Powys, Yorkshire, Perthshire and Dumfries & Galloway, offering farmers training on measuring grass yield and technical specifics for the monitoring equipment and software.

Alasdair Davidson from Poldean Farm in Moffat, Scotland, said: “I am really looking forward to participating in GrassCheckGB. It will be a great opportunity to move my grazing management to the next level and collect data that will not only help my business but be shared with other farmers.”

AHDB, HCC and QMS are supporting involvement of beef and sheep pilot farms from the £2 million fund of AHDB red meat levies ring-fenced for collaborative projects which is managed by the three GB meat levy bodies. The ring-fenced fund is an interim arrangement while a long-term solution is sought on the issue of levies being collected at point of slaughter in England, for animals which have been reared in Scotland or Wales.