There was a real sense of winter this week as damp and misty weather took hold. Air temperatures are just above normal for the time of year, but soil temperatures are well above normal across most parts. Johnstown Castle, Oak Park, Shannon and Claremorris are 2.5°C above normal.

This is leading to higher grass growth. The average growth rate is 44kg per day, which is more typical of a mid-September than a mid-October growth rate. Growth for the coming week is predicted to be 30-40kg per day in most places, albeit lower along the counties in the west and north.

Growing it is one thing, but utilising it is another, and this challenge is only going to get greater as the weeks move on. Use a strip wire to allocate grass on a 12 hour basis for dairy cows, or 24 hour basis for other stock. It’s an essential piece of equipment, especially where grass covers are high.

In very wet weather, stock should be moved to lighter covers where utilisation should be better. Some stock will be housed in the next few weeks, such as finishing cattle and in-calf heifers. This should allow more grass for other stock such as weanlings or stores.

Grass is a good feed now, but a better one next spring, so making sure you keep some for then is critical. How much to carry over will depend on how early you can turn out and how high the demand will be.

Most farmers with a high demand in early spring will be happy to have a closing cover of 700- 900kg/ha on 1 December. According to PastureBase, the average farm cover is 884kg/ha now, so not far off the closing target.

There is scope to go 100-50kg/ha below target now and still be on target by 1 December if cows are fully housed in mid-November. It’s also fair to presume that with less higher covers around this autumn and higher soil temperatures, that growth rates will remain higher for longer.

Sward Watch

  • Average grass growth rates are 44kg per day, which is significantly higher than normal as soil temperatures are higher and there are less high pre-grazing yields this autumn.
  • Ground conditions are reasonably good but we are getting late in the grazing season now, so damage will be more easily done than before.
  • Use 12 hour breaks for cows and 24 hour breaks for other stock. Graze drier ground with lower covers in very wet weather.
  • While the focus now is firmly on closing paddocks, keep an eye that average farm cover doesn’t get too low.
  • Farmers

    Michael Gowen – Kilworth, Co Cork

    Cows are currently getting 4kg of silage, but we will hopefully pull this back to 2kg.

    We have 15% of the milking block closed up so far. We have started with the non-clover paddocks first.

    This will be followed by our high clover content swards, finishing with our low clover swards.

    We want to try get light to the base of the low content swards, hence why we are grazing them last.

    We plan on keeping cows out until 10 November, with cows out day and night up until 3 November. Ground conditions are holding up well so hopefully this will work for us.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.2

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 48

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha) 950

    Yield (l/cow) 15.7

    Fat % 5.7

    Protein% 4.4

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.63

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 2

    Jonathan Dwyer – Borris-in-Ossory, Co Laois

    We’re prioritising grazing wetter areas now while ground conditions are still good. It’s a balancing act. We are trying to get some of the paddocks marked for high covers grazed so they will be available in spring when we have a lot of cows calved.

    Clover paddocks will be the last to be grazed to allow plenty of light to the base of the sward.

    We have some heavy covers of 2,400-2,600kg DM/ha. We are grazing these by night with a 12-hour wire and grazing lighter covers during the day.

    Empty cows and poor performers were sold when we were in the drought, so solids are good at the minute.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.04

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 30

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha) 1,207

    Yield (l/cow) 14.5

    Fat % 5.89

    Protein% 4.52

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.56

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 3

    John Russell – Manorcunningham, Co Donegal

    We’ve only started feeding baled silage the past few days. Until now we were getting away with zero-grazing in grass to supplement them.

    Cows are being housed at night and fed silage to try stretch grass supplies to November. Cows are getting a good allocation of grass during the day which keeps silage requirements relatively low.

    Ground conditions for October have probably never been this good, as we had a very dry September which meant no damage was done to swards.

    Close to 30% of the block has already been closed up for the year. Growth is likely to have dipped nicely when we go to measure again.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.89

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 60

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha) 916

    Yield (l/cow) 19.5

    Fat % 4.4

    Protein% 4.1

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.7

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 5