The predicted grass growth for the coming week reinforces what many farmers already know – grass growth rates are declining fast. Munster and south Leinster are worst affected, but a drop in growth rates is forecasted for every county.
The majority of farmers are still in a relatively good position, but unless more rain comes in the next 10 days then lots more farmers will be in a grass deficit.
There’s very little rain forecast for the next week, but there’s not much high temperatures either, so evapotranspiration won’t be too high. This points to a slow and gradual reduction in growth.
Only put in additional feed if you need to and feeding silage should be a last resort, but if it’s necessary it’s necessary. The trigger is when feeding 4kg of meal per cow per day isn’t enough to sustain a 21 day round length.
The key thing is to get value out of whatever feed is put in, and the best way to ensure this is to break up the farm into 21 different areas and use supplement to make up the difference between what grass is available and what the cows need to eat in 24 hours.
With growth rates still around 60kg/day I see no reason to stop applying fertiliser. There is still good uptake of nutrients on the majority of farms, even in dry areas.
In fact, compounds containing nitrogen, potash and sulphur will be a good defence against any possible drought stress. In New Zealand, potash is referred to as the poor man’s irrigation because of its ability to keep grass growing during dry conditions.
Farms in the north and west where rain has been more plentiful should carry on as normal anyway.
With more urea-based fertilisers being used now, getting enough sulphur applied is proving a bit of a challenge. It’s an important nutrient that can’t be forgotten and should be applied at a rate of about 20 units/acre over the course of the year.
ASN fertiliser (26 units N, 14 units S) is difficult to source this year, but can provide a quick fix if sulphur is low. However, a little and often approach to sulphur, starting in early spring is probably the best policy.
There are a good few protected urea plus potash and sulphur products available also and these will be equally as effective as ASN for use now.
I know building costs are historically high, but so too are fertiliser prices, and the availability of P and K – a key Russian output – could be hard to source next year. Would extra slurry storage allow for more cautious use of slurry next spring?
Rather than having to spread higher rates of slurry on grazing ground in January/February/March due to storage restrictions, if extra storage was available this slurry could be carried forward into the year and used more on silage ground, etc.
A farmer contacted me recently to say he was quoted €14,000 plus VAT for a 60’ by 14’6” slurry tank and he expects the slats will add another €5,000 to the cost.
On a cost per cubic meter basis this works out at about €96/m3 and will provide storage for 37 cows over 16 weeks based on current requirements. Cheaper options are available too.