Cold weather: Grass growth is still not where it needs to be, but an improvement in growing conditions is forecast for the next seven days.

Some farmers I have spoken to this week have gone back in with silage to suckler cows to slow down the rotation to allow grass supplies pick up again.

Others have in with meal to store cattle to do the same thing.

Grass dry matters are very high and beef cattle are settled at grass so there is no cause for panic yet.

When growth does pick up, things will change very quickly and it’s important to be ready for the surge in growth when it does come.

Predicted growth rates for the next seven days on Teagasc PastureBase farms are 58kg/DM/ha/day for Ballyhaise and 74kg/DM/ha/day for Athenry so if these predictions are correct, you need to be ready to meet that supply with demand from next week on. To put this into context, a group of 15 cows grazing 10ha (25 acres) will have a daily demand of 24kg/DM/ha/day.

I have had a few calls about silage fields not growing well after receiving fertiliser six weeks ago and the question was whether to go out again with more fertiliser. The advice is to hold tight and wait until growth takes off to see what the fields look like.

Growth will likely compensate for the poor start. The risk with going out with more fertiliser is the grass won’t be able to take it all up and if nitrogen is high at cutting, it could lead to preserving issues.

Breeding: Breeding has started on many early spring-calving farms. Some farmers are using AI for a few weeks at the start of the season to try to breed replacements and then use a terminal stock bull for the rest of the season.

If using AI, good heat detection is extremely important to get good conception rates. Tail paint, vasectomised bulls and taking time to detect heat are all key to achieving high conception rates. While best results will be achieved using the am/pm rule (cows seen in heat in am are bred in pm and cows in heat in pm are bred in am), some herds, including Tullamore Farm and the Newford Herd are just inseminating cows once a day at midday and achieving good results. Table 1 shows the negative impact poor heat detection and poor conception rates could have on in-calf rates.

BPS Reminder: Don’t forget about your BPS application. It must be submitted online on by 17 May so that just leaves over a week to get applications in. If you have made a lot of changes like dropping land and renting in new land, it’s probably best to get help from an agricultural adviser to complete your application.