THE warmer weather experienced over the past two weeks has brought relief for farmers in Wales, with grass now growing at the rate normally expected following several weeks of low temperatures which hampered the growth of the ‘green gold’ so important for livestock.

Wales has been among the world’s innovators in recent decades in breeding new grass varieties and managing pasture and this is continuing with two research projects that will support Welsh beef and sheep farming maintain and enhance its reputation as a low intensity, sustainable production system.

Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is a partner in current research projects designed to help farmers get the most out of their grassland to ensure healthy and productive livestock.

HCC part-funds the GrassCheckGB project which aims to improve grassland productivity and pasture utilisation, with fifty livestock farms across Britain including nine beef and sheep farms in Wales, closely measuring their grass yields, grass quality, soil moisture and temperature and weather.

HCC’s Research and Development Officer Nia Davies said, “The results from the GrassCheckGB farms in Wales showed that grass growth was well behind the average for the time of year for April and most of May, largely due to cold temperatures.

“Since mid-May, growth rates climbed back to above 50kg of dry matter per hectare, which is much more in line with seasonal norms, and this week is up to an excellent 67.7kg of dry matter per hectare (kg/DM/ha).

“The results over the longer-term of the project have demonstrated that Wales is extremely well placed to grow grass efficiently as livestock feed, with the ideal combination of climate and landscape.

“Optimising grassland utilisation through grazing management is fundamental to sustainable  livestock productionkeeping concentrate use to a minimum, which benefits both producer and environment.”

HCC also supports the annual publication of the Recommended Grass and Clover List (RGCL), a farmers’ guide to research on which grass and clover varieties would be best suited to their livestock systems.

“The RGCL can be used by producers to identify which varieties are best suited to the purpose of a specific paddock or field within the holding. By selecting varieties based on key characteristics it can improve efficiency within the grassland production system, reducing feed costs and allowing for greater kg/liveweight gain per hectare.”

The latest edition of the Recommended Grass and Clover List has been published this week with nine new varieties added. The full list is available on the HCC website.

GrassCheckGB is a collaboration between Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) together with CIEL (Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock) and researchers at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Rothamsted Research, as well as industry sponsors Germinal, Waitrose & Partners, Sciantec Analytical, Datamars Livestock and Handley Enterprises Ltd. CIEL is supporting the purchase of equipment on farms through funds from Innovate UK, the UK’s Innovation Agency.