GrassCheck: A second boom week on the cards

Grass growth has rocketed this week across Northern Ireland dairy farms. The latest GrassCheck data recorded an average of 69.4kg DM/ha/day on milking platforms – well above the 57.6kg average expected.

It compared with 50.8kg DM/ha/day recorded on beef and sheep farms and 64.7kg DM/ha/day recorded on the two GrassCheck plots at Greenmount and Hillsborough.

Rainfall varied substantially across the province, from lows of just 7.5mm recorded in Co. Down to highs of 23.1mm in Co. Derry.

With temperatures looking set to hit 20° this weekend, the growth spurt is expected to push even further above the 10-year average as it continues into next week.

Up to 75.3kg DM/ha/day is expected the week beginning May 7 – just in time for the start of silage season.

It’s welcome news for many given the cold and wet start to the year which put grass growth back several weeks.

This week’s GrassCheck management notes advise:

  • Improved weather and ground conditions have led to a significant increase in grass growth again over the past week, with grass responding well to applications of fertiliser.
  • It is vital to get stock out immediately to make the most of the high-quality spring grass. Where ground conditions continue to improve, focus on achieving target grazing residuals to maintain quality into the next rotation.
  • Farm covers are increasing each week. With good growth expected to continue, it will be important to take paddocks out for silage to maintain grass quality.

Established in 1999, the GrassCheck project aims to provide 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 as well as 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.