2024 marks GrassCheck’s 25th anniversary. AgriSearch are planning a series of new initiatives and events to mark this significant milestone in its flagship programme, with more details on these to be released over the coming weeks.

Over the past 25 years, the GrassCheck programme has been fundamental in assisting ruminant livestock farmers maximise returns from grazed grass.

This initiative – led by AgriSearch, AFBI and CAFRE, and supported by DAERA and CIEL – has monitored year-on-year variations in grass growth, providing valuable information to both farmers and policy makers during this time.

The first GrassCheck Bulletin of 2024 was published last week. AgriSearch has just made a major investment in refurbishing and calibrating 22 weather stations across its network to ensure the accuracy of the data in the GrassCheck bulletin each week.

With weather extremes observed in recent years, the importance of understanding the variations in growing conditions has never been more important for optimal grassland management.

Given the continued high cost of fertiliser and concentrates, maximising grassland utilisation will be key, and the use of high-clover grass swards is more important than ever.

Grassland also has an important role in sequestering carbon. Work conducted over the past 50 years at AFBI Hillsborough has shown that well-managed grassland can sequester more than 800kg of carbon per hectare per year.

Trends in weather and the impact on grassland production and quality was certainly the topic on everyone’s mind at the recent meeting of the GrassCheck farmers, where the 2023 season summary was presented.