Mild conditions over the last few weeks have led to higher than normal grass growth rates. When added to lower than normal rainfall it means ground conditions are quite good. Many farmers, particularly those in the southern half of the country, are making the most of it, with cows or youngstock still grazing.
As we’ve highlighted before, it’s important not to graze too much in the autumn to be short next spring. However, given that growth rates are higher than normal, there is also the risk that there will be too much grass in spring, particularly where herds have been housed for the past week or more. Closing at too high a cover should be avoided as it makes grazing in spring difficult, particularly on heavy farms. It highlights the importance of doing a farm walk between now and the end of the month to know where the farm is at and if that means taking out a paddock or two for grazing then so be it.
Grass is predicted to grow around 10kg or 11kg per day for the next week so if cows are housed, average farm cover will increase by around 70kg to 80kg over the coming week. Most farmers will be happy to have a closing cover of between 600kg and 900kg by 1 December.
Farmer sentiment towards the spike in fertiliser prices is turning from anger over the price rise to fear of not being able to get fertiliser at all next spring. If importers and merchants don’t place orders soon there is a risk fertiliser won’t arrive in the country in time for the main spreading season in March and April. Everyone at this end of the supply chain is in a difficult position and farmers will have to work with merchants in order to secure supplies.
How concerned you need to be depends largely on your reliance on nitrogen for early spring grass. A good response to early spring nitrogen is around 10kg of grass grown up to mid-March for every 1kg of nitrogen spread in late January or early February. Based on this response, 1t of urea will grow 4.6t DM of grass. In terms of value, even at the prices being quoted currently that extra grass still works out as being much cheaper than concentrates and is of similar quality.
However, it’s only value if it’s utilised. If you normally struggle to graze all of the area in the first rotation, have swards with not enough perennial ryegrass, have heavy or challenging soil types, or sub-optimal soil fertility, then you’ll struggle to get a return from the investment in the nitrogen. In such cases, farmers would be better off waiting until later to spread nitrogen. Of course, slurry is a great source of nitrogen and farmers will be minding it to make sure it covers enough area next spring.
This week we take a look at the options around on farm emergency power generators. Demand for all generators has gone through the roof since power cuts were first mooted. They are an important back-up on dairy farms. If baulking at the costs involved, weigh it up against the loss of a tank of milk or being unable to milk the cows for a day or more.