Back on track: NI grass growth rates expected to soar

Researchers expect grass growth to boom over the next seven days, bringing growth back on track with the 10-year average.

The mixture of warmer weather and rain has helped undo many of the effects of the prolonged winter which stunted growth early in the season.

Just two weeks ago grass growth was predicted to continue well below the 10-year average for this point in the season.

Back on track

However, soil temperatures are now consistently above the 6º threshold required for growth.

This increase in temperatures means growth is predicted to jump further in the next two weeks, up to levels typically expected at this time of the year.

Ground conditions remain challenging for many; however, average covers on GrassCheck farms have increased to 2,350kg DM/ha and quality remains high. Samples showed metabolic energy averaged at 12.3MJ/kg DM across the farms.

Readings between the plots and farms remained similar. Dry matter was slightly higher on-farm at 19.9% compared to 17.9% on the plots.

Over the last seven days, growth was highest on the beef and sheep farms, measuring at 28.2kg DM/ha/day.

It compares with average growth of 27kg DM/ha/day on dairy farms and 11.9kg/ha/day on the two research plots at Greenmount and AFBI Hillsborough.

Meanwhile, in the Republic of Ireland, AgriNet data shows growth was highest in Leinster at 29kg DM/ha/day over the last week.

Farming to the weather

With growth set to increase further, GrassCheck researchers are advising farmers to take opportunities to measure and establish a grass wedge to help manage grass in the next few weeks.

Where grazing conditions are difficult, consider back-fencing, on-off grazing, the turnout of lighter stock and targeting the lighter areas of the farm.

Established in 1999, the GrassCheck project aims to provide “high quality, up-to-date grass information to assist farmers with grassland management decisions”.

Operated by AgriSearch and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), the project monitors weekly grass growth and quality and provides seven and 14-day grass growth rate forecasts.

In 2017, the project included 35 farmers across a variety of systems spread across Northern Ireland. This year the number of farms involved increased to 50.

For the latest grass information visit: agrisearch.org/GrassCheck.