Growth rates have plummeted this past week, with some experiencing growths in the low to mid-30s. Grass swards are stressed from the harsh spring that has just passed. Some farmers are heading into a moisture deficit, while the majority are lacking decent heat. Walking the farm this week and seeing the deficit that might be present in the middle and last third of your wedge, will give you a chance to keep a step ahead. What you want to avoid is dropping below 130kg of a cover per cow, or grazing covers of 1,100 or less.

What are the options? Firstly, make sure fertiliser is up to date.

On grass-only swards you should have 112kg N/ha or 90 units spread by the start of June and be following the cows with 28kg N/ha or 22 units for the month of June (.75 of a unit a day). These figures are to keep you under the nitrogen allowance of 212kg N/ha, or 170 units per year, that came in at the beginning of the year.

On grass and clover swards with a clover composition of >30%, now you should have 90kg N/ha, or 72 units, spread by the start of June and be following the cows with soiled water or half-rate chemical nitrogen.

Look to see if there are any paddocks not intended to be grazed by cows that could be brought into the rotation, ie grazing of second-cut ground. If not, the next step would be to increase concentration level in the parlour for a week or two, until grass builds back up.

Pre-mowing and grazing a heavy cover intended for surplus bales may also be necessary. Yes – this will hit the tank, but paying a contractor to bale this field and then feeding it back as bales next week doesn’t make sense and will hit the tank and your pocket.


  • Rotation length should be kept at 20 to 25 days, by calculating how much grass is on the farm and then use supplement to fill the gap.
  • Feed meal of up to 4kg or 5kg, but if the deficit is greater, silage should be fed.
  • One bale of silage equates to 200kg DM/ha.
  • Rain is forecast for the week ahead, but those in a deficit will need to continue feeding until AFC and growth rates are back on target.
  • Padraig Keane, Kilcormac, Co Offaly

    Managing grass has been extremely hard this year on my once-a-day herd, going from no grass one week to loads the next. Growth has slipped back this week again, due to a combination of cold weather and mechanical fixing through baling and pre-moving heavy covers, which has slowed my regrowths. I’m not overly worried just yet, as I’m not stocked too high. Cows are grazing covers of 1,300kg/ha, but if pre-grazing cover drops to 950kg-1,000kg/ha, then I will intervene with concentrate or bales. Silage yield from my first cut is back on other years, due to not being able to get nitrogen on the ground early enough as it was too wet.

    Stocking Rate (cow/ha): 3.2

    Growth Rate (kg/day): 45

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha): 470

    Yield (l/cow): 18

    Fat%: 4.92

    Protein%: 3.96

    Milk Solids (kg/cow): 1.65

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 2.5

    Ivan Ferguson, Fahan, Donegal

    Cows are milking well, grazing covers consistently at 1,400kg/ha. We got a lot of rain on Sunday, which has made some paddocks very hard to travel on. Quality of grass is very good, as we corrected a lot through topping. A lot of paddocks are very open due to the poaching that occurred early in the year. I plan to reseed maybe the worst one or two during the year, if the weather allows.

    First-cut silage was done on 9 May and there is a big cover starting to build on it again, which I plan to cut in the next few weeks. The silage ground got 3,000 gallon of slurry and was topped up with 60 units of protected urea.

    Stocking Rate (cow/ha): 3.28

    Growth Rate (kg/day): 50

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha): 497

    Yield (l/cow): 26

    Fat%: 3.97

    Protein%: 3.53

    Milk Solids (kg/cow): 2

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 5

    John Joe Collins, Teagasc, Ballyhaise

    There has been a big drop off in growth rate over the last week. Farm cover is currently running at 660kg/ha, with growth rates in the low 40s, we will be monitoring this closely over the next week.

    We held back some surplus paddocks as a buffer, which will help us get through this cold spell. We are just over the three weeks of breeding, with a submission rate of 97%.

    Only three cows haven’t shown heat. Cows are grazing cover of 1,300-1,400kg/ha. Residuals are currently around 4.5cm. Grass quality is very good on most paddocks; only the odd one needs correcting.

    Stocking Rate (cow/ha): 2.72

    Growth Rate (kg/day): 40

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha): 660

    Yield (l/cow): 25

    Fat%: 4.39

    Protein%: 3.59

    Milk Solids (kg/cow): 2.05

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 2.25