Welsh Government

Welsh Pasture Project

Helping you get the best out of what is arguably your most important asset – your grassland

We have selected cross-sector farms located across Wales which will measure and monitor their weekly grass growth rates for Farming Connect’s new Welsh Pasture Project.

Each farm will use a plate meter to collect measurements and will also take monthly samples for quality analysis. The results will be shared with you on these web pages.

The farms will all measure the growth and quantity of available Dry Matter. They have all been asked to identify and compare different ways of managing grass – but the goal remains the same, to find the system which can best match the supply and demand of livestock needs. Each farm will also address the utilisation of quality feed.

This project will enable you to keep up to date with the progress from each location by clicking on our Welsh Pasture Project map and data.

We would encourage you to visit this map on a regular basis, to have a look at what grazing strategies and options are performing best, and then to consider whether some of these strategies could be beneficial if implemented within your business.

Measuring for 2016 has now come to an end and farmers taking part in the project will begin measuring grass in earnest again next spring. No new data will be added to the website until next February. You can find the 2016 grass growth rates in the Welsh pasture project report 2016.


Why grass is so important

Grass is an essential crop in livestock production. Unfortunately, it’s a known fact that around half of the grass grown in Wales is not utilised efficiently.

Grazed grass is the cheapest and most efficient form of feed on the farm.

If you manage it well:

  • inputs can be decreased
  • production costs can be reduced
  • profit margins will increase

Measuring and monitoring grass growth is good for business. It will enable you to:

  • Maximise production from grazed grass.
  • Ensure livestock has access to the most palatable and highest value grass feed.
  • Achieve residuals of 1500kg DM/Ha which will help you maintain good regrowth and quality in the next grazing round which in turn, has the potential to grow more tonnes of dry matter per hectare.
  • Budget for the costs of increasing your grass growth.
  • Monitor supply and demand levels, which has the potential to reduce your fixed and variable costs - essential in times of volatile prices.

Set stocking has an expected utilisation of around 50% whilst paddock grazing and good sward management can increase utilisation to around 80%.

The Grass Value Project run by Coleg Sir Gar at Gelli Aur between 2011 and 2013 found that:

  • one tonne of dry matter cost around £97/tonne

This supports the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s (AHDB) findings which showed that:

  • the cost of utilising 40% of grass will cost around £88/tonne
  • utilising 80% of grass will cost around £45/tonne

(Please remember that these figures depend on variables such as soil type, grazing infrastructure, sward mixes, rainfall and so on).

What this actually means to farmers is that by managing grass better and increasing utilisation on farms, there is potential to increase both physical and financial performance for your business.


Find a participating farm near you

Farming Connect has selected these cross-sector farms, located across Wales, to provide data for this project.

By clicking on the map, you will find a detailed description of each farm, together with background information which includes rainfall, latitude and detail on the various grazing strategies being utilised or trialled.

Begin by browsing the farms nearest you, but take a few minutes to see what is happening in other areas too.

Click on the farm that most closely matches your system to get an idea of current growth and management decisions which will range from fertiliser application to grazing strategies.


Top tips on grazing

Measuring how much feed is available in a field is done by either using a plate meter or a sward stick. You can then relate sward height back to kg DM/ha to assess the amount of available grass (also known as cover in a field). Try to graze as close to the 3 leaf stage, to maximise quality and energy intake.

Pre Grazing - dry matter feed intakes vary between animals and weight, therefore it is essential to calculate your demand needs based on your current system and livestock enterprise.

Post Grazing - you should aim for a post grazing target residual of around 4cm or 1,500kg DM/Ha. Grazing under the growing point of 4cm will diminish plant reserves and slow down the regrowth process.

 

Pre grazing target

Post grazing target

Dairy

2,700kg DM/Ha

4cm/ 1500kg DM/ha

Beef

2,500kg DM/ha

4cm/ 1500kg DM/ha

(set stocking aim for 2,000 to 2,500kg DM/ha)

Sheep

2,200kg DM/ha

4cm/ 1,500kg DM/ha

(set stocking aim for 1,800 to 2,000kg DM/ha)


Farming Connect offers a wealth of services and arranges knowledge transfer events that will provide you with support, guidance and training. If you need further advice or information, contact a Farming Connect technical officer.