Grass yields recorded on GrassCheck farms across NI during 2022 are down 6% year on year, or just over 0.66t dry matter per hectare (DM/ha).
From March to the start of October, average yield in 2022 was 10.4t DM/ha, down from 11.07t DM/ha last year.
Grass yields have been falling over the past four years with Grasscheck farms recording an average of 11.56t DM/ha in 2020 and 12.99t DM/ha back in 2019. That 2019 figure is 2.5t or 24% more than this year.
Prolonged dry spells have had a pronounced effect on yields in recent years, although the situation in 2022 has probably been exacerbated by reduced chemical fertiliser applications due to high prices.
Across NI, Co Derry has overtaken Co Fermanagh as the best county for grass growth in 2022. In total, farms across Derry averaged 11.23t DM/ha which was down 0.22t DM/ha on 2021.
Fermanagh farms yielded 10.61t DM/ha, down 1.3t DM/ha on 2021 levels. Co Antrim came in at 10.36t DM/ha with Co Tyrone at 10.3t DM/ha. Armagh and Down were hit hardest by dry conditions and grew 9.59t and 9.69t DM/ha respectively.
Unsurprisingly, dairy farms grew more grass than beef and sheep counterparts, with 11.32t DM/ha grown compared to 9.47t DM/ha, a 20% yield differential.
Despite grass yields being down in NI during 2022, the averages recorded are significantly ahead of farms participating in the GrassCheck programme in Britain.
During 2022, average yields on farms across Britain totalled 7.96t DM/ha, almost 2.5t DM/ha or 24% lower than the NI average yield.
Yields were lowest in the South East of England at 6.9t DM/ha rising to 8.61t DM/ha in Scotland, with dairy units averaging 9.64t DM/ha compared to 6.79t DM/ha on beef and sheep units.
Annual grass growth is also trending downward on farms in Britain, with an average of 9.97t DM/ha recorded back in 2019, which was still 30% less than growth in NI that year.