Growth rates have been very variable across individual farms never mind across the country over the last seven days. This is due to soil type and how much moisture the ground is currently holding, as well as the length of time since the last fertiliser application.

Ground that has received no nitrogen in the last three weeks is slowing down significantly compared to parts of the farm that were spread recently when the moisture was there.

For farmers in the south, soil moisture deficits remain a worry and with little or no rain in the forecast this is set to continue.

The predicted grass growth rate for the southeast for the coming week is sitting in the mid- to high-forties, which will probably just meet demand on drystock farms but is well short of demand on dairy farms.

Try to maintain average farm cover above 550kgDM/ha. Going below this will slow regrowth further as it takes grass to grow grass.

Buffer feeding is still commonplace and many farmers have fed whatever surplus bales were made earlier in the year at this stage.

Where second cut silage ground is available and has a decent cover it may be worth grazing some of this now rather than eating into first cut silage reserves.

Bounce back

In the north and northwest, grass growth did bounce since last weekend with the increase in temperature.

Where grass quality was an issue, there has been a lot of mowing carried out in the last fortnight and this ground has been much slower to recover, putting a pinch point for grass on many farms. Ground conditions have improved greatly which will aid grass utilisation.

Indeed, right across the country grass utilisation is excellent with 90% to 95% utilisation rates being achieved and this needs to be taken into consideration when allocating grass in the coming days.

Sward watch

  • Growth rates are still lagging on most dairy farms, with buffer feeding set to continue.
  • Where second cut silage ground is available it may be better to graze now to preserve first cut silage reserves already in the yard.
  • Grass utilisation is excellent at the moment at 90% to 95% with grass dry matter being very high (19% - 21%). This higher utilisation needs to be taken into account when allocating grass.
  • Maintain average farm cover above 550kgDM/ha, as going below this will reduce grass growth rates further and slow recovery.
  • Dairy Farmers

    Sean Roberts – Old Ross, Co Wexford

    The rain we received last week has really managed to lift covers for us, but with the heat we have gotten over the last few days with no additional rain on the way, we’re likely to see growth dip down to the 60s again.

    We’ve taken out some surplus paddocks this week, moreso due to them being stemmy as opposed to strong covers.

    We’re following cows with 18s at the minute on a 21–22-day round. We’ve used less fertiliser this year as we have clover established in some paddocks. All our slurry has been applied using LESS.

    Breeding will finish up this week, with the bull already removed from the heifers.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.74

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 86

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 220

    Yield (l/cow) 24.8

    Fat % 4.35

    Protein% 3.75

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 2.01

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 2.5

    Padraig McCarthy – Lixnaw, Co Kerry

    We are following cows with 18 units of protected urea at the moment. Any paddocks with clover are receiving nine units N and this year’s reseeds that were sown with 2kg of red clover and 2kg of white clover are receiving no nitrogen.

    I spread three bags of 10-10-20 on the reseeds at sowing and since then it has received one bag of 0-7-30 and one round of dairy washings. We are using bloat oil in the water for protection.

    We had 113ml of rain in the last week of June, so growth is holding up well for now. Quality has been the big issue for us, with some paddocks taken out as surplus this week to help maintain sward quality going forward.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.2

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 66

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 195

    Yield (l/cow) 18.8

    Fat % 4.66

    Protein% 3.86

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.65

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 0

    Barry Reilly – Teagasc Ballyhaise, Co Cavan

    Growth is good at the moment, with our pre-grazing covers being 1,300-1,400kg DM with about 11 days of grass ahead of us.

    Breeding has gone really well for us this year, with our scanning rates showing that 65% of cows are confirmed in calf from the first month of breeding.

    We will continue to breed for another three weeks, which is later than most farms, but we also have a later start of calving date than most.

    Bulls are away from heifers the past three weeks so they will be scanned next month. To date we have fed 208kg of meal to cows, with 222kg of milk solids sold to the co-op.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 2.72

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 76

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 191

    Yield (l/cow) 22.1

    Fat % 4.22

    Protein% 3.68

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.7

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 1

    Beef Farmers

    Niall O’Meara – Killimor, Co Galway

    Second cut silage was cut on 6 July and baled two days later. Yields were 1,900kg-3,500kgDM/ha depending on how long it had been since the previous grazing.

    I also cut a five acre field of red clover silage which yielded over 3,000kgDM/ha with no fertiliser. This is the second year of this red clover mix and it seems to be performing well.

    Management needs to be altered with it. You need to be careful not to over graze it in autumn and when mowing for silage you need to cut at about 6.5cm stubble height to retain the growth point of the plant.

    Growth is slow but fertiliser application has also been reduced this year. I have 100% silage requirement in the yard and cows are a month from calving so demand for grass is reducing.

    System Suckler to weanling

    Soil type Variable

    Farm cover (kg DM/ha) 588

    Growth (kg DM/ha/day) 25

    Demand (kg DM/ha/day) 36

    Derek O’Donoghue – Salesian College, Pallaskenry

    We received over 60mm of rain a fortnight ago which corrected any soil moisture deficits. We also hadn’t let the average farm cover drop too low, it was maintained above 650kgDM/ha so when the rain came growth took off.

    This week some paddocks are being taken out as surplus. While they are just too strong for grazing, covers are not heavy but this means they will be back in time for the next rotation.

    We are running the bullocks and heifers together and the lambs are grazing with the calves. The ewes are following the young stock. This puts us at three grazing groups, making grassland management much simpler.

    The first draft of Belclare ewe lambs are retained for breeding and we hope to have factory lambs next week.

    System Dairy-calf-to-beef & sheep

    Soil type Free draining

    Farm cover (kg DM/ha) 684

    Growth (kg DM/ha/day) 42

    Demand (kg DM/ha/day) 34

    Willie Treacy – Hackballscross, Co Louth

    We were struggling like a lot of farms around here for a good few weeks and got a bounce in the last fortnight.

    I spread a lot of ground with 25 to 30 units/acre of Sulfa CAN at the same time as I was spreading for second cut silage and that has really helped.

    The average farm cover was decent and it has also aided growth over the last fortnight.

    I have seen years here where we dry out in July so I always try to carry a decent farm cover into this period. Looking at the forecast we could be heading for that period just now.

    Breeding is finished since 20 June and I have seen very little bulling since, so I’m hoping for a good result but I plan to scan in the next fortnight to confirm it.

    System Suckler to beef

    Soil type Free draining

    Farm cover (kg DM/ha) 1,202

    Growth (kg DM/ha/day) 88

    Demand (kg DM/ha/day) 74