For the lucky few that were still getting out to grass in some form since the start of this month, the heavy rainfall over the weekend and earlier this week seems to have been the final nail in the coffin for grazing 2023.

Anyone that got to this point has been lucky to do so when we look at the weather data for the year.

Many counties in the south and southeast of the country had received their average annual rainfall by the end of October, with two of the wettest months yet to be seen.

This year will certainly go down as one of the wettest and trickiest for grazing and farming.

The attention should now turn to 2024 and how better can you improve your farm from a grassland management point of view.

Annual tonnage reports should be analysed to see where paddocks have not performed this year, and a decision on whether to reseed or not should be taken.

While reseeding is often viewed as the silver bullet to a lack in performance in paddocks, soil fertility is the first port of call.

Reseeding is costing close to €500/acre these days, and if soil fertility isn’t there to meet it, a lot of the newly sown grasses will be gone from sward three years later.

Talking of soil fertility, it’s also an ideal time to take soil samples to analyse where fertility lies on farm.

The general recommendation would be every second year for soil sampling, but with a sample costing in the region of €30, this cost can easily be recouped with correct fertiliser action and improved performance when done annually.

Sward watch

  • The focus now is on 2024 as the grazing season has ended. Use the downtime over the winter to assess performance of individual paddocks with annual tonnage reports.
  • Where performance is poor, assess the soil fertility before earmarking a paddock for reseeding next year.
  • Soil sampling should be completed over the winter and a nutrient management plan drawn up for 2024.
  • Farmers

    Kevin Moran – Caherlistrane, Co Galway

    We had some extremely heavy rain over the weekend but we managed to get cows back out to grass yesterday and today (Wednesday). We’ve been leaving the gap open for cows for the last four or five weeks and it has worked well for us.

    We have had a noted reduction in lameness with cows being allowed to travel inside at their own pace. Meal feeding is being based off holding body condition rather than production.

    We had been feeding surplus bales up until now, but will hold one bale/cow over for spring, meaning the pit will now be opened. We are grazing clover paddocks at the minute, with five days grazing left.

    Stocking Rate (cow/ha) 2

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 16

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha) 761

    Yield (l/cow) 12.5

    Fat% 5.81

    Protein% 4.21

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.29

    Concentrates 4kg

    Brian Ronayne – Dungourney, Co Cork

    The end of grazing has been very mixed, with all cows going out some days, all cows being held in others, while a percentage of cows have been turned out to grass to try get paddocks grazed.

    We have 25% of the herd out at grass day and night this week.

    We milk recorded last week, and the lowest yielding 20% of the herd are being dried off today (Wednesday) and will be moved to cubicles off farm.

    The cows that remain out will finish the grazing season by the weekend. Our target is to have an opening cover of 700kg DM/ha on 1 January, with calving set to kick off around 4 February.

    Stocking Rate (cow/ha) 2.77

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 15

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha) 603

    Yield (l/cow) 10.4

    Fat% 6.04

    Protein% 4.65

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.16

    Concentrates 3kg

    Shane O’Loughlin – Monasterevin, Co Kildare

    Cows had been out by day and in by night until last weekend, with all milking cows now housed full time.

    The weanling heifers and in-calf heifers are grazing away on outfarms, with the plan being to keep these out as long as possible.

    Cows are on surplus bale silage at the minute, with 150 of these left to eat. I’ll hold 50 bales over for spring as well as a 75 DMD silage pit for when cows begin calving.

    Our closing cover is a little on the high side, but the remaining paddocks were too wet to graze.

    Hopefully we will get a dry spring to utilise the extra grass.

    Stocking Rate (cow/ha) 0

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 15

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha) 750

    Yield (l/cow) 13

    Fat% 5.09

    Protein% 3.85

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.19

    Concentrates 3kg