Fertiliser: With the fine weather, many farmers are thinking of fertilising silage ground.

In terms of nitrogen (N), the Teagasc advice is that a good crop of first-cut silage will require 100 units per acre and this should be spread at least 50 days before cutting.

Therefore, ground destined to be cut in late May will need N now. About 25% of the N applied to date will still be available. So if 30 units/acre has been spread for grazing, around eight units/acre should still be available.

Equally, if slurry was spread before now at a rate of say 2,500gallons/acre, then around five units/acre should still be available. I think there is scope to reduce N on silage ground. Spreading 80 units/acre is a 20% saving on N and should not impact much on yield.

Slurry is ideally placed to provide the phosphorus and potash requirements for silage and some of the N requirements, particularly if spread using low-emission systems. Spreading 3,000gallons/acre is roughly the equivalent of three bags/acre of 0:7:30. The Irish Farmers Journal held a webinar on fertiliser, which was first broadcast on Wednesday night but is available to watch back on www.ifj.ie/webinar.

The advice from Teagasc specialist Mark Plunkett was to be cautious about spreading too much potash on silage ground in spring. He says 70 units/acre of K is sufficient, otherwise it could cause milk fever issues. Sulphur is also necessary at a rate of 16 units/acre per cut.

Lime: It’s an ideal time to spread lime on silage ground and even grazing fields that are low in pH. Lime can be spread at any time of the year but it shouldn’t be spread on heavy covers prior to grazing as it may contaminate the grass.

In terms of slurry and urea, it’s better to spread either of these first, if necessary, and then spread lime a week or so later. The general recommendation is to spread 2t/acre on grassland, so each 20t load will cover 10 acres.

If pH is low on the grazing area, it will take more planning to fix. Over a three- to four-week period, the whole farm will be grazed and if the lime was spread once a week on the grazed sections the benefits over time will be massive.

Breeding: Some Glanbia suppliers are considering tweaking their calving date in order to avoid the peak penalties.

The reality is moving the start of calving forward into January will do little to alleviate the problem because April is included as a peak month. In effect all they will end up doing is creating extra work and cost in January and a larger penalty in April.

Farmers who normally start breeding in late April need to start tail-painting cows now. It’s not necessary to watch cows bulling, but don’t re-paint cows that have had paint rubbed off.

At the end of the three-week period, the cows calved more than 30 days and with paint still on should be scanned. This will help to increase the submission rate.

The other thing to do now is to put thin cows on once-a-day milking until three weeks post-service.