Although many farms are fully housed for the best part of a month, weather over the next week is looking up in many areas – with sunshine and some passing showers forecast. While many farms are still saturated, the opportunity presents itself for some farms to get back grazing.

Many farms around the country have been left with high covers, anywhere from 1,600kg to 3,000kg DM/ha. It is a priority this week to get out and clean off these paddocks for spring.

Paddocks grazed from here on out will be the last 40% of paddocks to be grazed in spring. Many of these will be awkward paddocks, with poorer grazing infrastructure and located further away from the yard.

Using grazing techniques such as on/off grazing, back-fences and spur roadways, can be effective measures to clean off paddocks with minimal damage.

High-risk paddocks going into spring are a priority to graze in the next week to 10 days. Paddocks with a high clover content, with a cover of 1,200kg DM/ha or higher, should be prioritised to be grazed. Carrying higher covers will lead to a loss in clover content, as it needs light to the butt of the sward.

With cows in most herds on and off grass, managing silage in the diet is important. Under-grazing can be an issue, especially grazing high covers as appetites are diminished. If animals are in by night and out by day, make sure they only have enough silage to last until morning. Holding cows after milking for 30 minutes or so can help with building an appetite before leaving them to grass.


  • With weather picking up, get out and walk the farm to potentially get cows back out to grass for the next week to 10 days.
  • Using back-fences, spur roadways and on/off grazing will improve access to paddocks and reduce damage.
  • Prioritise high-clover content paddocks and high covers over the next week.
  • Managing silage in the diet is important with cows going in and out.
  • Every week a delay in closing reduces spring grass supply by 100kg DM/ha.
  • Dairy farms

    Paul Sheehan, Conna, Co Cork

    Cows are in by night for the last two weeks. We would get them out for two/three hours after the evening milking, but for ease of management they stay in now, as I live off-farm. To date, 85% of the farm is closed. Demand has dropped, as all first-calvers and a few cows with twins have been dried off. The farm is dry, but some of the land is low-lying, so the river has flooded a lot of ground. Cleanouts are excellent for the weather we’ve got, cattle are currently grazing covers of 2,000kg DM/ha. Weather permitting, I hope to keep them out until the 24-25 November and that should have the farm set up well for spring.

    Stocking Rate (cow/ha): 2.53

    Growth Rate (kg/day): 31

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha): 794

    Yield (l/cow): 13.5

    Fat% : 5.52

    Protein%: 4.26

    Milk Solids (kg/cow): 1.36

    Concentrates: 3kg

    Michael Doran, Duncormick, Co Wexford

    Cows have remained indoors full time since 4 October. We managed to get them back out for the first time yesterday. They went into a small paddock with a cover of 2,000kg DM/ha. It’s a wettish paddock and they walked in a bit of grass – it’s a clover paddock, so I wanted to clean it off. There is only 20% of the farm closed off to date. We have a lot of covers from 1,600kg to 3,000kg DM/ha, so getting high covers cleaned off over the next week is a priority. The farm is dryish, but there are a lot of springs. We got our annual rainfall here at the end of October and it saturated the place. We had one pit made of surplus silage and that’s gone now.

    Stocking Rate (cow/ha): 2.7

    Growth Rate (kg/day): 16

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha): 1,125

    Yield (l/cow): 12.5

    Fat% : 5.82

    Protein%: 4.14

    Milk Solids (kg/cow): 1.25

    Concentrates: 3kg

    Shane Fitzgerald, Ballynoe, Co Cork

    Cows are out during the day and get another allocation for a couple of hours after the evening milking. They grazed a new reseed today, with a pre-grazing yield of 2,000kg DM/ha. Graze-outs have been fine. I start grazing at the back of the paddock and work back. In the last grazing they have less of an allocation and get the whole paddock. There are 30 acres of the farm left to graze. If I could get another day or two grazing I would be happy with that. We plan to close out the farm at 800kg DM/ha on 1 December. Any paddocks with 1,300kg DM/ha will be left until spring.

    Stocking Rate (cow/ha): 3.6

    Growth Rate (kg/day): 28

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha): 920

    Yield (l/cow): 12.4

    Fat% : 6.04

    Protein%: 4.42

    Milk Solids (kg/cow): 1.3

    Concentrates: 3kg

    Beef farms

    William Treacy, Dundalk, Co Louth

    We are trying to make the best end to what has been a seriously challenging grazing season. Grass growth is pretty good for the time of year and there is quite a bit of grass left to graze. Covers are heavy and we are trying to improve utilisation a bit by keeping group size small.

    I have a few batches of dry and autumn-calving cows on drier areas – they are heavier animals, but they are walking less and seem to be doing a better job grazing than younger cattle, which can quickly get unsettled during bad weather. I have a lighter batch of weanlings I’ll let back outdoors this week. I am keen to get the heavy covers grazed, as leaving those over winter will destroy quality and stifle growth next spring.

    System: Suckler to beef

    Soil Type: Free draining

    Farm cover (kg/DM/ha): 703

    Growth (kg/DM/ha/day): 21

    Demand (kg/DM/ha/day): 15

    Mark Maxwell, Mulllingar, Co Westmeath

    We have about 90% of ground cleaned off and closed at this stage. There are some light dairy-cross stock and spring-calving dry cows remaining at grass. These will be housed once a few heavy covers are grazed. There is a nice bit of grass on areas which were closed, but we are minding this as it will be far more beneficial to have next February if weather allows early turnout. We are keeping a close eye on silage supplies and fodder budgets. We have moved more cattle on to heavier feeding, using a barley-based ration, with a view to killing earlier and at lighter weights than normal. Feeding meal to these cattle looks a far better prospect than storing animals and ending up short on silage.

    System: Suckler to beef

    Soil Type: Free draining

    Farm cover (kg/DM/ha): 595

    Growth (kg/DM/ha/day): 10

    Demand (kg/DM/ha/day): 31

    John Hally, Thrive demo farm, Cashel

    All cattle have been housed for the last number of weeks. Grass was still available, but ground conditions deteriorated too much, especially where we were feeding finishing cattle around troughs. We slaughtered the first 24 heifers off grass on 13 September and they averaged 261kg carcase weight at 18.5 months, and recorded an average sale value of €1,316/head. The average grade was O+3= with a mixture of Aberdeen Angus and Hereford heifers on it. The remainder of the heifers were killed on 17 October and they averaged €1,258/head. Bullocks are currently on good-quality silage and 6kg of meal. They came in a little back compared to other years, and we expect to have the first draft gone in about three weeks’ time.

    System: Dairy calf to beef

    Soil Type: Free draining

    Farm cover (kg/DM/ha): 729

    Growth (kg/DM/ha/day): 34

    Demand (kg/DM/ha/day): 20