QMS spotlight on grazing and animal performance

Making the most from grass will be the focus of a special one-day conference later this month.

Quality Meat Scotland is holding a Grazing for Growth conference at United Auctions in Stirling on Friday, May 30.

The conference is part of a new drive by the red meat levy body to help Scots livestock farmers grow more liveweight kilograms from pasture.

“The aim of this event, which will feature a diverse line-up of expert speakers from around the globe, is to take a fresh look at grazing and animal performance from pasture,” said QMS knowledge transfer specialist Michael Blanche.

“It is generally accepted that typical livestock set stocking rates result in only 40%-60% of the grass we grow being utilised. Leaving a barley field 50% harvested with what remains left to rot in the field would be universally viewed as a waste so there is huge potential to get more from the grass we already grow,” added Mr Blanche.

Speakers at the conference include grazing consultant John Bailey; New Zealand grassland expert Trevor Cook; Lanarkshire farmer Michael Shannon, who runs a forage-only diet on his farm, and Welsh dairy farmer Rhys Williams who operates a pasture-based system.

The conference will end with a farm walk at the Forth Monitor Farm – Arnprior Farm run by the McEwan family.

Last month QMS announced plans to launch five grazing groups and a number of grass measurements stations across Scotland. Mr Blanche said the groups will be located in the south-west, Borders, central Aberdeenshire and northern Scotland.

“The main objective of these groups is to increase the kilograms of meat produced per hectare through improved utilisation of pasture,” he said.

“There will be a host farm but all the businesses involved in the groups will have the opportunity to pursue the same objective on their farms. This goal will involve analysis of historical performance and monitoring of weights and grass production over the course of the project.”

The grass stations, which will measure grass growth, soil temperature and test the quality of the grass on-farm, are planned for Berwickshire, Ayrshire, Perthshire, Laggan, Easter Ross and Buchan as well as the grazing group host farms.

Updates from each station will be published regularly on the QMS website.

Mr Blanche said: “These grass stations will provide us with invaluable information about grass growth in Scotland.

“We want to know how much grass we can grow in Scotland, how soil temperature interacts with growth and how quality interacts with both growth and temperature, all under commercial farming conditions. We also want to look at soil fertility and its relation to all three measurements.”

The Grazing for Growth conference is free to attend with tickets offered on a first come, first served basis. To request a place email info@qmscotland.co.uk or call 0131 472 4040.