Applications are now open to become a GrassCheck pilot farmer for two AgriSearch’s projects: Precision Grazing and Beef from Grass.

Working with research partners AFBI, these projects will recruit new dairy farms and beef farms from across Northern Ireland to monitor grass growth and quality across a range of production systems and land types.

In Northern Ireland, there is a huge variation in soil type and a range of microclimates, resulting in large variations in localised grass growth, rainfall, soil moisture levels and temperature. AgriSearch Project Officer Elizabeth Earle commented “In 2017, we witnessed huge variability in grass growth and grazing conditions across the country. This has significantly impacted on animal performance and feed costs on-farm.’’ Previous 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 £334/ha/year and on a beef farm £204/ha/year.

Elizabeth highlighted  ‘‘That it is vitally important that we continue to both research and monitor this variation in order to provide Northern Ireland livestock farmers with the necessary information required to make effective nutrient and grassland management decisions on-farm.’’ The new Precision Grazing GrassCheck project will seek to examine not only the variability in climatic conditions, grass growth, utilisation, and quality across Northern Ireland but also examine the potential use of novel, labour saving precision technologies, such as reflectance imaging and laser sensing to assess grass yield and quality.

Getting to grips with new precision technologies at the launch of AgriSearch’s new Precision Grazing project were Ian McCluggage (CAFRE), Debbie McConnell (AFBI), Francis Lively (AFBI), Elizabeth Earle (AgriSearch), and Drew McConnell (AgriSearch).

AgriSearch and AFBI are seeking to recruit six new additional pilot dairy farmers to take part in this new Precision Grazing (GrassCheck) project. AgriSearch will also be filling some  vacancies in current ongoing Beef from Grass project.

Farmers will be required to measure grass weekly throughout the grazing season. Regular grass samples will also be taken for analysis.  Each of the pilot farms will also have an automatic weather station installed, which will measure key metrological data including 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 by using the links below:

Applications are particularly welcome from Armagh, North West Londonderry and South Antrim areas.

Deadline for applications is 12 noon on Monday the 19th of February 2018.

If you have any general queries then contact Elizabeth Earle (AgriSearch) on 028 9268 1514, for Dairy specific queries contact Debbie McConnell (AFBI) 028 9268 1530 and for Beef specific enquiries contact Francis Lively (AFBI) 028 9268 1552.

The Precision Grazing project is funded by AgriSearch and by DAERA under the Research Challenge Fund.