QUALITY grass is the foundation of the Welsh lamb and beef industry.

The fact that animals are reared on natural pasture in Wales’ outstanding rural environment is a key factor behind the positive reputation that the country enjoys for the quality and sustainability of its meat.

This means that managing grassland effectively is vital to Welsh farmers.

Several have signed up to be part of a major research project supported by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) to look at new grassland technologies and techniques.

GrasscheckGB aims to improve grassland productivity and pasture utilisation on beef and sheep farms through a new grassland performance monitoring network.

A total of 27 pilot beef and sheep farms, including nine in Wales, have been chosen alongside 23 dairy farms, representing a wide range of geographical areas and farm systems.

Pilot farmers will measure grass each week throughout the growing season and take grass samples.

They will also have an automatic weather station installed on their farm to record data such as temperature, rainfall and sunshine hours.

The information gathered will enable researchers to make predictions of future growth and report this to the industry on a weekly basis, while also supporting novel grassland research.

This project is a collaboration between HCC, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) together with the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL) and researchers at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Rothamsted Research, as well as industry sponsors Germinal, Waitrose & Partners, Sciantec Analytical and Handley Enterprises Ltd.

CIEL is supporting the purchase of equipment on farms through funds from Innovate UK, the UK’s Innovation Agency.

GrasscheckGB is being part-funded from the £2 million fund of AHDB red meat levies ring-fenced for collaborative projects which is managed by the three GB meat levy bodies – AHDB, HCC and QMS – as an interim arrangement while a long-term solution is sought on the issue of levies being collected at point of slaughter in England, for animals which have been reared in Scotland or Wales.

HCC’s industry development and relations manager John Richards said: “We are excited to have nine Welsh sheep and beef farmers on board, who have already received training on measuring grass yield and using an electronic plate meter. We hope the project will make a real difference to productivity.”

He added, “A recent study carried out by AFBI suggested highlights the potential importance of this work as it showed that improving pasture utilisation by one tonne per hectare is worth an additional profit of £204 per hectare per year to a beef farm.”