GrassCheck researchers are advising farmers to review their forage budgets as the latest predictions for growth sit at just a fraction of the 10-year average.

Figures collected by GrassCheck's 50 Northern Ireland farmers show a slow start to this year's growth, with not much to look forward to over the next two weeks.

Although average soil temperatures have risen 1.1º in the past week, in most places they remain just below 6º - the temperature required to stimulate grass growth.

The 7-day forecast currently expects growth of 4.9kg DM/ha/day and compares with the 10-year average which sits at around 30kg DM/ha/day at this point in the year.

[caption id="attachment_252945" align="aligncenter" width="747"] Source: GrassCheck[/caption]

This week's analysis also showed on-farm grass covers remain low at 1,977kg DM/ha which will slow grass response to any rise in temperature.

But, while growth over the next two weeks is expected to remain significantly below what's typically expected for the time of year, it's not the worst the region has seen over the last 10 years of the programme.

In 2013, GrassCheck data showed very poor growth rates of 0 and 0.5 for this week and the week after, respectively.

The same year, growth didn't reach over 30kg DM/ha/day until early May when typically advisors on the programme would expect it to sit at around 80kg DM/ha/day.

Where grass is available, quality is excellent and opportunities should be taken to graze off winter covers and apply fertiliser to stimulate new growth.

[caption id="attachment_252946" align="aligncenter" width="719"] Source: GrassCheck[/caption]

Grass growth and quality data from 50 sites spread across Northern Ireland feed into the AgriSearch and AFBI led GrassCheck programme in 2018.

Following on from a successful recruitment drive there will now be 20 dairy farmers, 23 beef farmers and five sheep farmers involved in the project as well as the long-standing plots at Hillsborough and Greenmount.

AgriSearch general manager Jason Rankin said the project had received "very positive feedback" from farmers on the new on-farm element of the project which was rolled out in 2017.

"This represents a real partnership between the farmers, AgriSearch and AFBI [Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute]. GrassCheck is now recognised nationally and internationally as an exemplar of on-farm research, innovation and knowledge exchange," he said.