Estimating growth rate of herbage during grazing is one of the keys to setting the right stocking rate. If growth is higher than expected, understocking, especially in spring can adversely affect growth and quality well into summer. As grass/clover swards are known to be affected more by weather than grass swards receiving regular applications of nitrogen fertiliser, an up-to-date guide to growth can be a useful aid in planning grazing strategy on grass/clover swards.
Stephen Clyde and Albert Johnston at the CloverCheck plots at the Greenmount Organic Unit discussing the sward growth rates and clover content.
Since 2008, CloverCheck bulletins have been produced to provide current and forecasted information on growth and performance of grass/clover swards and relevant grazing management notes featuring different beef/sheep farms. Due to on-going interest in the potential that grass/clover swards offer in saving nitrogen fertiliser and increasing animal performance, CloverCheck bulletins will be published fortnightly by CAFRE and AFBI during the growing season in 2013.
Current and forecasted growth and clover content data will be determined from the CloverCheck grass/clover growth model and validated against data from sets of monitor plots laid down on grass/clover swards on farms. The main input of the model is temperature, rainfall and irradiance. The plots are cut monthly in two sets. One set is cut two weeks prior to the other so that every two weeks we have an estimate of growth and clover content over the previous 4 weeks. So the fortnightly output of the model is checked against these data. At key points in the season clover content will also be assessed in the field containing the plots for comparison between plot and field.
In addition to data from plots, the bulletins will also include information focusing on the use of grass/clover swards at the CAFRE Beef and Sheep Development Centre (Abbey farm and Organic unit) and on beef and sheep, farms in Northern Ireland. Data on these farms will be collected to provide information on grass covers and stock performance. Management issues that arise will be highlighted and discussed. This will be a useful management tool which will be directly applicable to beef and sheep farmers, to facilitate the management of grass/clover swards on their farms.
For further information contact:
Dr Scott Laidlaw
Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute
50 Houston Road