MOT your grass to get the most from it

The grass may be growing well but the pasture could be in need of maintenance. Beef and sheep producers across England are being urged to carry out a Grass MOT as they turn grazing stock out.

EBLEX has developed a Grass MOT tool, which is a quick an easy way to assess the factors influencing grass growth. And now’s the time to be conducting it, says EBLEX beef and sheep scientist Liz Genever. “Just as grass growth is really getting under way, under-performing fields can be easily identified.”

The MOT brings together a dozen key factors into a single, visual assessment. Criteria such as compaction, worm numbers, ground cover and weed content are all summarised. A traffic-light grouping helps you assess quickly whether you’ve the perfect pasture or a suffering sward.

The new tool has already been put to the test on the Duchy College farm in Cornwall. “It is useful in the way it focuses your attention on what’s important for good grass growth,” says Duchy’s Roger Clarke, who has also been collecting data as part of the EBLEX/Farmers Weekly GrassWatch initiative.

He carried out an MOT on Smiths Field – Field 1 in the GrassWatch monitoring programme, a field already performing well, and this was confirmed with good ratings for worm count, root depth and compaction.

“It prompted you to record the smell of the soil, which is not something you usually test, but is a good, quick indication of sward health.”

The field is a recent reseed, and the MOT flagged up an amber on ground cover. “We may do a bit of slot-seeding in the autumn,” says Mr Clarke.

“But the grass is growing like a rocket. Conditions are perfect – we couldn’t ask for more.”

It’s a similar picture across much of the south-west, reports Dr Genever. “It’s catching out those with a fixed turn-out date – they’re putting stock out to graze and finding more grass than they’d bargained for.”

If sward height is high, use electric fencing to strip-graze valuable spring growth to reduce wastage, she advises.

Elsewhere moisture is beginning to limit grass growth. “It’s hitting recent reseeds hard, especially in the east,” she says.

• Duchy College is the venue for a Reseeding Day on 5 May. For more information email or call 0870 609 1840.

The Grass MOT is available here.

Check grass growth in your area

Log on to GrassWatch on FWi  to find the latest results from eight colleges across England that are monitoring grass growth and quality throughout the season.

The initiative, run by EBLEX in association with Farmers Weekly, helps beef and sheep farmers get better value from their grassland and achieve better herd or flock performance.

Forum Fodder

Ade b: Down here in Sussex we have some grass up to our knees now. This particular ley was over-seeded and sward lifted in the autumn last year, and the benefits have been there to see all winter.

Stapler: Grass is starting to grow well in Northumberland. Most of my suckler cows are out. It is desperately dry – very little rain for weeks now and the nights are very cold.

Ayreshirebull: Grass starting to really jump here. Growth was past demand earlier this week.

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