Grass growth

Predictions that growth was going to take off last week proved incorrect, and many farmers have had to go back in with more supplement or graze silage ground as grass is just too scarce.

Warmer weather this week is having an impact, and grass growth has already improved.

It’s a game of fine margins at the moment, as growth could swing by 20kg or 30kg per day if the conditions are right. That will turn a grass deficit into a grass surplus very quickly.

Farmers should be walking the farm every five days and making decisions around supplement use and skipping paddocks.

Those that make informed decisions early are usually rewarded in higher milk yield and constituents, because they have better grass in front of the cows and at lower cost.

For those that measure grass, the lowest average farm cover that I would be willing to go to would be 150kg/cow now.

That’s in the knowledge that growth is going to increase.

A cover of about 180kg/cow is a more comfortable place to be, and the aim should be to get to this over the coming weeks.

Calf scheme

Applications for the dairy beef calf welfare scheme close at midnight on 15 May.

The scheme pays out €20/head up to a maximum of 50 calves for each dairy beef calf born on a dairy farm, where the sire is genotyped and at least three stars in the dairy beef index (DBI) and three stars for beef value in the DBI.

The three stars rule can be within breed or across breeds. Stock bulls are also eligible under the same criteria.

If unsure as to whether a bull meets the threshold or not, the best place to check is the ICBF animal search facility. Type in the bull AI code or tag number, and when the animal appears on the screen there is a tab for dairy beef eligibility and this will show if the bull is eligible or not.

The thresholds are not difficult to meet, so most farmers using beef AI or who have purchased good quality stock bulls should be eligible.

Importantly, partnerships can apply in each partner name, which increases the number of eligible animals for payment up to a maximum of 150 in the case of three partners.

Farmers can apply for the scheme through the Agfood website.


After all of the rain over the last eight months, drainage systems have been tested. A drainage system won’t make wet land grazeable during wet weather, but it will help the field to dry out quicker.

Most farmers will tackle drainage during the summer months, and in the main it’s a good investment provided the additional grass growth is utilised.

While draining peat soils is not a good thing from a carbon point of view, draining mineral soils is very beneficial, as this will increase carbon capture. The key thing to remember is that there is no one size fits all approach to drainage.

Tile drains are good at removing surface water, but ineffective if placed in an impermeable layer, as water won’t be able to move in from the sides.

In some situations, deep drains will be far better at lowering the water table, presuming there is an outfall. The best policy is to dig multiple test holes and assess the permeable and impermeable layers.