The inevitable has happened on some farms as, with nearly a month of dry, warm weather, growth rates have dropped off significantly.

Average growth on PastureBase is at 65kg DM/ha, but this is somewhat of a skewed figure, with those in the west and northwest doing well in excess of this, while other counties along the coast of the Irish sea and Munster are seeing growth finally dipping below demand.

It’s still very much a ‘green drought’, but for it to happen so early in the year is worrying, with the green term easily removed if the forecast rainfall fails to arrive in sufficient quantities.

The initial forecast saw rain promised from Thursday, with this now being pushed back to Friday night/Saturday morning.

As one farmer stated, don’t plan for the rain coming until you see it falling.

Regarding fertiliser and slurry application, it’s better as I said to wait for the rain to actually fall than to plan for when it’s supposed to fall.

There isn’t going to be any significant thunderstorms, so even when the rain does arrive, there’ll be ample opportunity to top up ground with either fertiliser or slurry.

The restriction in growth we are now seeing is more to do with a lack of moisture than a lack of nutrients.

Should the dry spell continue, or the rain fails to make much of an impact, the golden rule must be to maintain a cover/lu of at least 150kg DM and an average farm cover of 500kg DM/ha.

Many farms had gone and upped the level of meal feeding to keep demand in line with growth, but supplementing with silage might now be required.


  • Golden rule is to maintain cover/lu of above 150kg DM, and above 500kg DM/ha of an average farm cover.
  • Wait for the rain to fall before doing ‘rain required’ actions like fertiliser or slurry spreading if growth is low.
  • Push back the rotation to 25 days to stretch out remaining grass, supplementing with concentrates and silage as required.
  • Farmers

    Joe Deane – Carrigaline, Co Cork

    We are holding the round at 21 days, grazing covers of 1,400-1,500kg DM/ha.

    We have another few days of these ahead of us and will be back down to 1,100-1,200kg DM/ha covers then.

    Concentrates have gone up from 2kg to 4kg, and we might introduce a kilogram of silage as well.

    This should hopefully keep us going for the next week to 10 days and we will revaluate then.

    Half the farm is due an application of protected urea plus sulphur, so if there is rain coming at the end of the week, we will go with this, as well as on the second cut silage ground.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.26

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 52

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 153

    Yield (l/cow) 22

    Fat % 4.4

    Protein% 3.43

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.77

    Concentrates 4

    Liam Budds – Ardmore, Co Waterford

    The slowdown in growth is really starting to show now, and I expect my next cover will show growth somewhere in the 30s.

    The farm is very dry and is prone to drought, so we began buffer feeding cows with bales of silage.

    The current diet is 4kg silage, 4kg concentrates and 9kg of grass.

    Cows are being held back in the yard to get silage in to them and ration out grass, with the rotation now set to 30-35 days.

    We still have nice covers of grass ahead of cows for a while, and we have 350-400 bales of silage in the yard for buffer feeding.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.4

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 53

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 150

    Yield (l/cow) 23

    Fat % 4.37

    Protein% 3.65

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.89

    Concentrates 4

    Caroline O’Sullivan – Teagasc Curtins, Co Cork

    We were surprisingly happy with the growth rate being in the 50s. With no rain for the last four weeks, we were expecting growth to be in the 30s. Our cover per cow is high, but with growth likely to fall back more we won’t be mowing anything out.

    Our current pre grazing yields are 1,400-1,500kg DM/ha. Quality in paddocks that were baled earlier is excellent, while there is some stem in those that weren’t cut, although clean outs are still very good.

    We might spread some MOP on the grazing platform if the promised rain arrives. No chemical N is being spread on the clover swards.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.02

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 52

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 249

    Yield (l/cow) 22

    Fat % 4.7

    Protein% 3.5

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.85

    Concentrates 1