The 2021 grazing season has gotten off to a cold start on most farms. With a forecast for snow in parts of the country and rain to follow in the coming week, conditions are set to remain tricky.

Dairy cows are on/off grazing for two to three hours morning and evening, while small numbers of light beef stock have been left out in some areas.

Grass is plentiful but ground conditions are challenging in all but the driest of soils. Soil temperatures have fallen this week with average temperatures at just 5 °C to 6.5°C.

Walking the farm is crucial at this time of the year. Making a plan based around ground conditions and grass covers will highlight best areas for grazing, slurry and fertiliser applications when conditions allow.

While it is a busy time on farm it is important to start focusing on the grazing season ahead. Getting 30% of the ground grazed in the first four weeks will ensure grass for the second round. The key to achieving that is proper allocation, good access points in and out of paddocks, grazing in square blocks, using a backfence and walking cows in single file to get to the back of paddocks. Letting cows out to grass with full bellies of silage is a big no no too. They must have an appetite. Use on/off grazing if necessary.

Grass Courses

The Irish Farmers Journal grassland management courses are running again this year in partnership with Macra Skillnet and a list of the areas can be found on page 34. John Crowe can be contacted on 086-081 7459 or for more information.

  • Walk the farm to assess ground conditions and grass availability.
  • 30% grazed by 1 March or ASAP.
  • Halt fertiliser/slurry applications during snow or heavy rain.
  • Practice on /off grazing when ground conditions are wet.
  • Focus on residuals to ensure good quality grass in the second round.
  • Dairy farms

    Caroline O’Sullivan

    Teagasc Curtins Farm, Cork

    We have had cows out since 1 February and grass allocation is increasing as the days go past. The cows go out after morning milking for two to three hours and again after evening milking where they are brought back in at 8pm. Silage is made available at night. We have 50% of the cows calved to date. In January we spread 2,500 gallons of slurry per acre on two thirds of the farm and the remaining one third got 23 units of protected urea.

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha): 885

    Growth rate (kg/day): –

    Concentrate (kg/cow/day): 3

    Silage (kg/cow/day): 3

    Percentage Grazed (%): 5

    Michael Ryan

    Moyne, Co Tipperary

    We have almost 50% of the cows calved and in the last week we started to let them out to grass. We are on/off grazing for two to three hours morning and evening. Silage is being restricted when they are in to ensure the have a good appetite when going out to grass. We have no chemical fertiliser spread to date but have applied slurry on paddocks with light covers and where the cows have grazed. The farm grew on average 7kgDM/day over the closed period.

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha): 965

    Growth Rate (kg/day): 7

    Concentrate (kg/cow/day): 4

    Silage (kg/cow/day): 3

    Percentage Grazed (%): 5

    Michael Doran

    Duncormick, Co Wexford

    Ground conditions on our farm are exceptionally wet at the moment. Cows are grazing a 1,400kg cover which is higher that we would like but it’s our driest paddock with multiple access points. Cows go out for three to four hours after each milking. We are feeding 2kg of 50:50 silage:maize mix at night. The majority cows are only calved less than a week and I estimate they are eating an average of 7kgDM grass per day. We have 3,000 gallons of slurry spread on one third of the grazing platform and no fertiliser out yet.

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha): 1,181

    Growth Rate (kg/day): 7

    Concentrate (kg/cow/day): 3

    Silage (kg/cow/day): 2

    Percentage Grazed (%): 2