With the looming bank holiday weekend comes the target engrained in farmers’ minds that 60% of the farm should be closed up for spring come 1 November, with a 70% target for heavily stocked farms or those with a high six-week calving rate. For many farmers, this figure is 100% as they will be unable to graze paddocks once again, save for some lighter stock.
Thankfully, Met Éireann has predicted improved conditions for the week ahead, though for heavy farms which are waterlogged a longer dry spell will be needed to get cows back to grass. Probably the best advice I can give to farmers is to walk their ground and do a grass cover, assessing ground conditions as you walk through
Certain paddocks may surprise you in how they’ve held up and it may offer you an opportunity to keep grass in the diet for a few more days, even if it is for three-hour bouts.
It should help to keep protein levels up, while also nipping away at the farm cover. Average farm cover on dairy farms on PastureBase is sitting at 716kg DM/ha, which is too heavy to allow for closing up just yet. A target of 600-650kg DM/ha (with the higher figure for heavier stocked herds) is more appropriate.
Target the heavy covers on the farm before grazing ends completely. Covers sitting at 2,000kg DM/ha now will likely not see stock again until close to St Patrick’s Day as you won’t have the grazing power to attack them until then.
These heavy covers will be even more difficult to graze out then, will have rotted and opened up the swards as well as smothering any clover that remained.
Percy Mills – Kilcullen, Co Kildare
We’re on a very dry farm here. Cows have been in and out over the past week to 10 days. They are back out full-time day and night now. We use a back fence so cows never go back over grazed ground.
We are buffer feeding cows with a diet feeder at the moment. Cows get 9kg of grass, 2kg of meal in the parlour and 7kg of a silage and maize mix.
Cows were scanned and any empties are being milked once a day to put on condition. They will be sold off soon. I am doing the final milk recording this week and any cows doing under seven litres will be dried off.
Stocking Rate (cow/ha) 3.58
Growth Rate (kg/day) 31
Average Farm Cover (kg/ha) 773
Yield (l/cow) 15.5
Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.6
Darren Healy – Redcross, Co Wicklow
Cows have been inside over the last four days due to poor weather conditions. I got them out today for a three-hour period and hope to get them out after the evening milking for another break.
We are on the side of a hill here and there is sheets of water on paddocks. With 50% of the farm closed, about 70% of paddocks are dry but a lot of the wet areas are near gaps.
We sold half of the empties so far that weren’t paying to keep. Breeding went well this year so I could selectively cull some late calvers and high somatic cell count cows. The rest of the empties will be sold as their yield drops.
Stocking Rate (cow/ha) 2.65
Growth Rate (kg/day) 38
Average Farm Cover (kg/ha) 750
Yield (l/cow) 15
Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.43
Brian Doheny – Tullaroan, Co Kilkenny
Cows are in full-time the last week. The farm is swimming at the moment with the rain we’ve got over the last few days. On just Monday alone we received 42mm of rain, it will take a while for that to dry out.
To date, there is 66% of the farm closed off. Hopefully if the weather lets up, we can get cows back out in November. If we can’t get out, we’ll have 100% of the farm closed and I don’t want to carry over high covers to the spring.
Cows are scanned now and we had 10% empty after 10 weeks breeding. All empties have been sold now we are stocked high on the milking platform.
Stocking Rate (cow/ha) 3.7
Growth Rate (kg/day) 43
Average Farm Cover (kg/ha) 736
Yield (l/cow) 13
Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.32