Sheep farmers wanted to take part in grass utilisation project

A new research project in the North aims to identify how sheep farmers can maximise the use of grass on their farms.

The AgriSearch project, ‘Lamb from Grass’, is looking for sheep farmers to apply to become co-researchers.

During the project it is hoped that different sheep grazing strategies will be identified and implemented which can help to maximise the use of grass on both upland/hill and lowland production systems.

Working with research partners at the Agri-Food Biosciences Institute (AFBI), the project will recruit nine sheep farmers from across Northern Ireland to participate in the study.

Four of these to be upland (hill) farmers and five are set to be lowland farmers.

‘Lamb from Grass’ is a three-year project (2017-19) funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and AgriSearch.

Work carried out by AFBI has demonstrated that improving grassland utilisation by one tonne per hectare on a beef and sheep farm is worth an additional profit of £204/ha/year (€238.50/ha/year).

Throughout the project, grazing strategies will be implemented on the five hill farms, including the CAFRE hill farm, and their effects on both vegetation and animal performance will be monitored.

Each farm will have a specific set of agri-environment targets to meet, while suitable measures to meet these targets will also be defined and implemented.

Different grazing strategies will be implemented and monitored on the five lowland flocks in 2017 and 2018 to evaluate their effect on grass and animal performance and overall lamb production per hectare.

Breeding strategies at each of the co-researchers’ farms will be defined following a consistent approach across farms.

These breeding strategies will provide the researchers with an opportunity to investigate how different breeds/genotypes respond to similar grazing strategies implemented at the farms.

Throughout the grazing season farmers will also be required to measure grass each week. Regular grass samples will also be taken for analysis at AFBI Hillsborough.

Any farmer interested in taking part in the project can find details of how to apply on the AgriSearch website.