Growth on a lot of farms has finally surpassed demand, though few would describe the situation as ‘magic’ just yet.

Growth throughout the year has been considerably behind that of normal.

This week or two is the traditional peak period of growth on farms, with soils usually having the perfect combination of heat, moisture and fertiliser.

While we would normally see growth rates of 100kg DM/ha/day at this point, last week only recorded an average growth rate of 57kg DM/ha on dairy farms measuring on PastureBase Ireland.

A large percentage of this lower-than-normal growth can be attributed to the horrendous spring just witnessed.

Paddocks that were grazed were damaged in the first round and sometimes in the second round and are now failing to bounce back, while paddocks that were left ungrazed until late had a large amount of dead butt and regrowth is proving extremely slow.

As noted with one of the beef farmers Ken Gill in this week's Grass+ page, any farmer who normally depends on clover to provide nitrogen (N) to their swards will have seen low growth rates owing to the colder than normal soils, but this is thankfully correcting itself.

What to do

Most farms should be in a position where there is enough grass on farm that silage will not need to be fed, but farms in general are low on forage and seeking to replenish reserves while maintaining quality swards in front of stock should be the top two priorities in grassland management over the next few weeks, with the two going hand in hand.

Fertiliser should be kept up to date, as utilisation levels are high right now. Now is the time to spread fertiliser, as it will allow for surplus grass to be taken out as silage.

As we come into the latter half of May, swards may also start to stem out, which will result in refusals from stock and topping or correction required.

Where the farm is in a good position grass-wise, mowing out these paddocks is a better option. Walking your farm and measuring grass cover and grass growth will indicate if this is a viable option.

Many farmers, particularly on the drystock side, tend to shy away from mowing out paddocks, with some citing that contractors detest it.

While contractors prefer a 10 bale/acre field, they understand that mowing out paddocks is part of good grassland management and a small amount of planning can go a long way to easing the pressure on them.

For lowly stocked farms, it is often a better option to take out one or two paddocks as long-term silage and bale them alongside first cut.

Where more regular paddock baling is required, it can be as simple a case as saying to your contractor ‘’when you are in the area next, will you bale out paddock X’’.